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Good To Know

Driving Tips of the Distracted

We know texting during driving is dangerous because you have to look down a lot.  It's similar to reading a Kindle while driving.  Who does these things?


But distractions while driving has a long history.  Back when we were still riding horses, falling off and being dragged with a foot caught in the stirrup was the number cause of cowboy deaths.  These were good riders and probably felt infallible.  Were they distracted? Sure! Swimmers only drown because they know how to swim. People who don't know how to swim don't take chances.


Let's face it. We're human beings.  If we can't handle one horse power, how are we supposed to cope with 40-hp or more?  Human beings don't belong behind a big metal machine on wheels that allow us to travel 80 miles an hour or more.  Because we're human and incapable of focusing on any one task for more than ten minutes without becoming distracted.


It doesn't matter if it's texting or staring off into space thinking about what you're going to do when you get home. Did you ever have a day driving the same old route where you couldn't remember having gotten from one road to the next?  You do it so often that it becomes automatic. That's distracted driving.


That doesn't mean we should approve of things like texting.  Absolutely not.  There are some things that we humans have to do while driving -- texting is not one of them.  I don't think peeing into a Coke bottle is necessary either, because one should be able to hold it until the next rest stop.  Nor do I think we should have a coffee cup in one hand and a Danish in the other.  Use the cup holder at least, to always have one hand on the wheel.


Some say they have to text while driving to let someone know they're going to be late, or to get directions because they can't find the place. Really? So be late. Or pull over. Logic should not be that hard to come by.


Some things are related to driving and should be allowed, lest we get too carried away and remove all activity behind the wheel except our brains.  Drinking coffee.  Okay.  Many people get up too early in the morning and need that extra jolt on the way to work.  Smoking.  Sure.  Look, we've already taken nearly every other place away from smokers, and I for one don't want a lot of angry jittery drivers on the road.  But for heaven's sake, put out the cigarette before tossing it into a drought-ridden corn field.  Phone calls.  Now I know there's no way to regulate this, but responsible people limit them to the necessities.  I'll be late for dinner because I'm stuck in traffic.  Did you say to turn right or left at Lombardi? Call instead of text. Newer cars make this easy. But phone calls should not be used as a way to kill time.  (Guilt as charged, officer!) GPSing.  I am a big breaker of this one—our GPS says do not use while driving.  I do.  But I find it to be a legitimate driving excuse.  You can tell when drivers who don't know where they are.  They make sudden lane changes, lunge onto the off ramp at the last second and drive too fast because they got lost and were late.  Yes, I do set the directions before I leave most of the time.  But there are some odd times when where I was headed wasn't where it said it was; I'm always aware of the traffic around me if I have to set it while driving. Or I pull over. The nice thing about phone GPS, as opposed to my old Garmin one, is that I can tell it where to take me, rather than having to enter the address by hand. Handy!


What to do if human beings get distracted?  Say you want to talk to the passenger in the seat next to you.  Or sing a song with the radio.  Or even just think about … something. These are human activities that are impossible to control while driving. We have to find ways to stay alert to the road. I find singing helps. But listening to news on the radio is distracting. Having someone in the passenger seat to talk to helps. It's a second set of eyes. But talking on the phone doesn't help, unless you are also sharing road patterns with them so they know where your eyes and mind really are.


Very few new drivers can afford the distractions.  Once people get used to driving they get cocky and think they can drive no-handed.  But driving always requires a certain amount of attention.  One hand always on the wheel, both is better.  A good distance between you and the car ahead of you for better response time. NO TAILGATING! You need breaking distance to pull yourself out of that distracted mind.


And always know where you're going. Always be aware of how many cars are around you.  


Distracted drivers don't notice people trying to merge onto the highway.  Remember the MERGING rule -- if the merging car is ahead of you, slow up a bit and let them in, or be aware if you can move into the faster lane. You can only do that safely if you know what the traffic pattern is around you.  Is there a semi next to you in the fast lane?  Then you can't move over.  If the car is behind you while merging then they have to fall behind you. The driver in the right lane is the one that likely has cruise control on and should maintain their speed, letting the merger adjust. We don't read minds, people!  If you're merging, it's up to you to adjust. Sometimes they expect you to move over, and sometimes they try to force you to. But they will be at fault if they hit you, and they know it.


Being distracted is being human.  Give everyone room to drive safely.  You know what causes rush hour traffic? People who drive bumper to bumper. That's right -- tail-gaters. Traffic slows up because there are those in the left lanes who need to exit and no one in the right lane wants to let them in. Rush hour is like a construction zone. Tail-gaters are selfish drivers.


Listen, we have enough problems this holiday season. Staying safe is the main one. Don't crowd, don't speed, don't text, don't drink and drive, but telling us not to be distracted?  We're not robots. Keep that safety area around you at all times when you drive, and hopefully you'll be human a little while longer.


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