This week’s question: Distracted Driving Awareness Week is coming up the last week of April. Do you have any pet peeves or life lessons to share about distracted driving?
Kathleen Schultz, news editor
It takes 5 seconds to send or read a text message.
That doesn't seem like a whole lot. Heck, according to the 5-second rule, that’s so fast that floor germs don't even have time to jump on board that french fry you just dropped under your desk that you hope your podmate doesn't see you scoop up and snarf down.
But if you're tooling along at 55 mph, 5 seconds is enough time to travel 300 feet – the length of a football field. The length of about 20 cars.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system – anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.
Jim Dunn, editorial page editor
Two close calls in my 46-year driving career stand out as reasons to avoid distracted driving.
The first happened while I was a college student during a weekend trip home. It was in the fall, after harvest. I was driving my ’63 Buick north on a state highway through flat farmland. Approaching a crossroad, I glanced to my right and caught a glimpse of an old farm truck headed toward the highway.
As he approached the stop sign, something must have gone wrong with his brakes, because he just kept coming and coming and coming. To my alarm, he rolled into my lane, directly ahead of me!
I swerved into the oncoming lane (no one was coming, thankfully), he screeched to a stop right before the centerline, and I missed him by inches. Whew!
The other close call happened last summer on a rural highway about midnight while I was driving home from working a late shift at the paper. Approaching a bridge, I was shocked by what I saw in the headlights: a doe lying on the warm pavement, in the middle of my lane, apparently taking a snooze!
As she looked up into my headlights, ears raised, I swerved to the left, and the luckiest deer in Lee County lived to see another day. (So did the luckiest editorial page editor.)
On either occasion, had I been distracted, I’m pretty sure the results would have been different. It pays to pay attention behind the wheel!
Terri Simon, Shaw Media editor, Princeton
I talk on my phone in the car, but I use Bluetooth. It's a great invention, but I'm not convinced it's totally safe. I tend to get caught up in the conversation, and all of a sudden, I have to remind myself I am driving, rather than just chatting.
I see people texting in their vehicles all the time. I also see them with their phones up to their ears. It bothers me. We've all heard of stories about someone texting and driving who ultimately ends up causing an accident with an innocent driver – oftentimes a fatal one.
I'm on the road enough that I see all kinds of crazy behavior on the road. I think the thing that bothers me the most are the people who tailgate – sometimes they are so close I can't even see their headlights. What if a child ran across my path, and I had to slam on the brakes? Or what about a deer? Or what about – well, anything.
I guess I'm a bit sensitive to that, since I had a vehicle totaled by a pickup truck driver who was traveling too close in slippery conditions and couldn't stop quick enough to avoid my vehicle. If you've ever been in a crash, you never forget the sound.
I applaud area law enforcement for participating in Distracted Driving Awareness Week. If it causes one person to make better choices, it's all worth it.