My daughter recently told me I was impatient. I had honked my car horn at the driver of the car ahead of me who didn’t seem to notice the red light where he was stopped had turned to green.
I had waited the requisite five seconds after the light changed before I honked. What I pointed out to my daughter — the reason I honked — is that the driver needed to be shaken from his focus on their text, email or other distraction.
Many parenting experts say the way to get through to kids about drugs, drinking, issues like safe driving, is to talk, to talk often, to provide concrete and real-life examples, and to model the behavior we want them to follow.
My experience with my daughter was a perfect opportunity for all of the above. As we continued our drive, we made a game, between her and her brothers, of finding other situations of distracted driving. I was focused on the road not playing.
Driving is not a game
Think that’s extreme or preachy? I could have had them talk to our neighbor who works as a tow driver for Early Bird Towing. He has many stories of the vehicles he’s had to provide towing service to because of distracted driving and what happened to the drivers involved.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reported more than 3,400 people died in 2015 in accidents involving distracted driving. Many thousands more were injured.
I don’t’ want my kids to become a statistic. So, if it means preaching, they can grab a chair and listen until I know they got the message. Want to know what our game uncovered?
Built-in or attached devices
According to NHTSA, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation systems counts as distracted driving. A lot of newer cars have controls built into the steering wheel. It’s a better system because drivers aren’t taking their nyhands off the wheel and turning eyes and hands to a central console. When you see someone fiddling between the seats and then loading a CD, that’s distracted driving.
The NHTSA also says talking with people in your vehicle can count as distracted driving. During our game, we didn’t award points to drivers conversing and occasionally glancing at the person beside them.
We gave full points to the man who had turned half around in his seat talking with someone in the back. And we did the same to the woman whose arm was seen reaching into the back seat, presumably to take something from someone.
Drinking and driving
Drinking and eating and driving is another problem under the distracted driving guidelines. I know many people who drink or eat when they drive. It could just be a sip of water, a late-night coffee a snacking.
In most cases, accidents or other issues are minimal. But consider the driver we saw whose burger seemed to fall apart while they were eating and then required a lap check to pick up the pieces. Or, how about the person who didn’t understand driving through construction zone while holding a cup of hot coffee is a bad idea?
I wasn’t going to stress the point of never eating or drinking while driving to my children. But we talked about the difference between trying to eat a burger and french fries and sipping a drink through a straw compared with juggling a too hot drink.
What else did we see?
We also observed people talking on cell phones, phone to ear, and wondered whether they had received or made the call while driving. There were hair checks, one driver who looked like they were trying to fix a contact, tooth checks, and one person, razor in hand, we could only assume was late for a job interview. We agreed, just on principle, he shouldn’t get the job.
Taking your eye away from the road to achieve any task, no matter how small, usually takes about five seconds. In the same time frame, you can also drive the length of a football field. As such, driving in any distracted scenario makes no sense — ever.
Text By Daniel Fialko