Distracted driving a real danger

With more than 3,000 people killed nationwide in distracted-affected crashes in 2012, the Michigan State Police (MSP) is seeking to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.

According to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. Distracted driving includes texting, using a cellphone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigational system, watching a video or adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.

“Distracted driving is a known serious problem; however, drivers are still partaking in this dangerous activity and putting their lives and others at risk,” said Community Service Trooper Fred Strich, of the St. Ignace Post. “Paying attention to the road and your surroundings can make the difference in preventing a crash and arriving home safely.”

There are three types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual involves taking your eyes off the road; manual consists of taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive involves taking your mind off what you’re doing.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it requires the visual, manual and cognitive attention of the driver. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field.

Here are some tips to help decrease distracted driving:

Get familiar with vehicle features and equipment before driving, preset radio stations, MP3 devices and climate control, secure items that may move around when the car is in motion, do not reach down or behind the seat to pick up items, do not text, access the internet, watch videos, play video games, search MP3 devices, or use any other distracting technology while driving, avoid smoking, eating, drinking, and reading while driving, pull safely off the road and out of traffic to deal with children, do personal grooming at home, not in the vehicle, review maps and driving directions before hitting the road, ask a passenger to help with activities that may be distracting, if driving long distances, schedule regular stops to take a break, every 100 miles or two hours, travel at times when you are normally awake and stay overnight rather than driving straight through the night, avoid alcohol and medications that may make you drowsy. For more information about distracted driving, visit www.michigan.gov/msp.