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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Distracted Driving and Changing Habits: What Kind of Driver Are You?

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The 2014 Hyundai models are being promoted right now. Just last week I heard one of their ads that focuses on their Blue Link technology, which allows for hands-free texting features. Most new cars have some form of sophisticated wireless technology, but I happened to hear this particular one, so I’m use Hyundai as my example; “Blue Link is about fun and it’s about safety. Location sharing and hands-free texting lets you stay in touch with your friends while traffic updates help you find the best way to get to where you are going Most importantly, and most impressively, the Blue Link SOS Emergency Assistance service can detect when you have been in a collision, locate your position and send the help you need. “

Now that many states are banning texting while driving there’s been a rush to find ways to allow us to continue texting and talking while we’re driving a car. This new hands-free technology is being marketed as a safer product. Ironically, the very technology that can send emergency assistance is the technology that may cause you to need assistance—when you get so distracted trying to send a hands-free text that you crash your car.

The best way to be safe on the road? It’s simple. You just drive, keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. You don’t ‘stay in touch with your friends or send texts. You don’t search for a restaurant while you’re in rush-hour traffic. You don’t check the weather or comb your hair. You don't program your GPS. You focus every bit of your attention on the road, your driving and the people around you.

Our job when we operate a motor vehicle is to get from point A to point B safely.

Why are Americans obsessed with multi-tasking? For years we have existed and even evolved as a society without the ability to call home or the office as we drive. Have we become so narcissistic that we think people can’t function without us for the length of time it takes to drive from point A to point B? We are selfish. We believe whatever we are doing is of the utmost importance, that it cannot wait, and that it is all of the other drivers who are unsafe and drive like idiots.

Last month was Distracted Driving Awareness Month but the issue of distracted drivers and car accidents is a year-round, 24/7 issue. A recent story reported that hands-free texting is just as dangerous as manually texting with your cell while driving. In both cases, the distraction of trying to verbalize or type in a text message is enough to put you at risk of an accident. So this new technology that is being promoted by Hyundai – and probably other auto manufacturers, if not now, then soon – as a safer alternative is simply another distraction—and just as dangerous.

Let’s step away from the cell phone issue to examine the larger issue of distracted driving. What does it mean? Anything is a distraction—adjusting your mirrors, turning around to discipline children, using your navigation system, or searching for a radio station. Each of those incidents takes your eyes off of the road. And in those few seconds you miss the car in front of you that stops suddenly. You don’t see the patch of black ice, or the child darting out, or the deer in the interstate highway. You aren’t focused. And, you’re putting yourself, your family and everyone else on the road in jeopardy.

What could possibly be more important when you are driving than protecting lives? That important business call? Probably not.

The National Safety Council believes that cell phone related accidents are underreported. There is no snapshot of what happens seconds before an accident occurs—whether it’s phone usage or something less obvious. In my law practice almost all of the auto accident cases I see are related to distracted driving of some nature, whether it be cognitive, manual or visual. It’s sad and it’s a crime, literally and figuratively, that deaths happen due to something as banal as sending a text message – or grabbing for that cell phone.

In 2011 there were more than 32,000 traffic deaths in the US. Only 385 were listed as involving phones. But we do know that accidents from distracted driving are underreported. And we know that failing to focus our complete attention to the road when we’re driving can cause accidents and kill someone.

Two country music mega-stars, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, are attempting to highlight the dangers of distracted driving in their song "Highway Don't Care". See the video on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/TimMcGraw

So what are you doing to become a safer driver? I have had to work on changing my habits, my way of thinking, when I drive. I shared a few suggestions in an earlier article, April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month-Are you Driving Safely?

Think about it and try to change your habits if the shoe fits.