Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Do You Drive Like a 16 Year-Old?

Do you drive like a 16 year-old?

If you are 16, this question should not bother you. You are young. You are a new driver. You are learning. The information that follows can be part of your learning experience behind the wheel. For those of us who have been driving for any amount of time at all, this question invites us to pay attention to the research and examine our own driving behaviors.

In his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt cites research related to cell phone use by drivers. For example, “Visual-spatial tasks…cause our eyes to fixate longer in one place than when we when we are asked to perform verbal tasks. The longer the fixation, the more attention we are devoting to the task – and the less we are giving to other things, like driving.” (Page 87)

What does this mean for us? It means is that when a driver is talking on a cell phone (a verbal task), it takes away from concentration on the road, and surroundings. In fact, one study noted that drivers talking on cell phones “tend to rigidly lock their eyes ahead.” (Page 88) This mimics the tendency of new drivers (16-17 year-olds) to lock their vision on what is in front of them, such as staying in their lane – an important task – but one which needs to be coupled with the use of peripheral vision. In short, our vision needs to pay attention to everything going on around us. Our brains are not wired to do this when we are talking on the phone (whether hands-free or not). Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking is a myth. Rather, we need to be mono-tasking - paying attention to that one most important thing - driving.

Vanderbilt makes the point, “Having your eyes on the road doesn’t do any good unless your attention is on the road too.” (Page 89) Given this, we can ask and wonder just how many loved ones die as a result of drivers paying attention to tasks that distract them from the real task at hand – driving.

When it comes to honing our driving skills, here are a few behaviors to practice as you mono-task behind the wheel.

...turn off all cellular devices - including hands-free and set aside until you reach your destination

...observe all posted speed limits, and adjust downward due to presence of children at play, cyclists, road and weather conditions

...create space between your vehicle and others around you, so you have time to react to the driving behaviors of others

...use your blinker to signal all turns and lane changes

...stop - take three to see at all stop signs regardless of whether or not anyone is present - it is your chance to practice making complete stops so you are ready the one time that someone does seem to appear out of nowhere

...observe all traffic signals and traffic signs

“Don’t Let the 2 Minutes You ‘Save’ 
Be the Last 2 Minutes of Someone’s Life.”
David Townsend (Tia’s father)

Safe travels,
Tom Everson
KEEP KIDS ALIVE DRIVE 25® - A Non-Profit “For Action” Organization -501(c) (3)
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