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Distracted Driving

As drivers, our ability to recognize danger and appropriately react to hazardous situations depends heavily on our sense of sight. When we drive, our eyes are constantly transmitting messages to our brain to help keep us safe.  But if you are distracted, even for just a couple of seconds, you increase the probability of putting yourself and others in danger.

We’ve all been behind or next someone guilty of distracted driving–who drifts into our lane or brakes suddenly because they aren’t paying attention to the road, or who is bobbing his head with the self deception that he is able to drive safely while texting.

According to Donald Fisher, a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, which studies driver behavior and safety, it takes two seconds for a driver to notice and react to a change in the road. Dr. Fisher says that a driver who texts is taking his or her eyes off the road for intervals of more than two seconds. He says finding the right key on a cell phone keypad can take longer than two seconds. Dr. Fisher also found that young, inexperienced drivers tended to have more frequent and longer periods of looking down, away from the road.

Many individuals have great confidence in their reaction time, but they don’t realize that texting involves visual, manual and cognitive attention, making texting the most consuming and fatal distraction they can do while driving.potentially

When driving, there are three different components involved in reacting to a hazardous road situation. The first is the mental processing time–the time it takes the brain to process that a hazardous condition exists and that it must respond accordingly. The second is movement time, which involves the action the driver has to take to avoid an accident by braking, speeding up, swerving, etc. The last is the device response time, which is the time it takes the vehicle to respond to the action taken by the driver to the situation. For example, a car will not stop immediately when a driver steps on the brakes. The amount of time it will take a car to stop depends on how fast the car is moving plus the condition of the road.

When a driver’s ability to make quick decisions is slowed or restricted by inattentiveness they place themselves in a much higher statistical risk of being in a motor vehicle accident. Making sure you’re using all your perceptive skills and senses while driving could make the difference between life and death. Next time you get behind the wheel of a car, take a couple of seconds to put your cell phone away before you hit the road. Those two seconds could just save your life.