The Great Hang Up: Driving Distractions Other Than Phones Dangerous on the Roads

12:17 PM, May 21, 2010   |    comments
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Texting while driving may soon be against the law, but there are many other driving distractions that may not get you a ticket, but can be just as dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2008, almost 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.

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Angela Whitfield of Gray shuffles her 4-year-old daughter around town, and often with her two young sons in tow.

She says, "I try to keep them occupied. They have their little Game Boys, and books, and coloring books, and fortunately we have a DVD player, so they watch that, but on long trips, they can get to goin' sometimes."

And when that happens, she says her first move is to pull over to talk to the kids. 

Whitfield says, "It does distract you. It can take your mind off driving, and I can't be turning around in the car constantly getting on to them, so that is something I definitely try to do."

Macon Police Traffic Officer Tracey Stanley says he wishes more people reacted like Whitfield.

He says, "if you have children, if they're already properly restrained in the vehicle, just use your rearview mirror. We know our children. We know if something is pretty serious, if it's that serious, stop, pull your vehicle over to check on your child. Don't bend over backwards endangering yourself and them because your attention again is diverted."

In his six years with the department, Stanley says he's seen it all on the road.

He says, "people eat while driving, people put make up on. Of course, texting, people on the phone. There are some cases I've actually seen people bend over backwards in their back seat to get something out of purses, book bags, or attending to children."

There are three main types of driving distractions. They include visual--taking your eyes off the road, manual--taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive--taking your mind off what you are doing.

You make think a quick look at the newspaper while in the car won't cause a problem, but you are more than three times more likely to get in an accident when reading behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also says looking at something outside your car increases your crash risk by about four times.

The most risky, reaching for a moving object in your car, makes you nine times more likely to get in an accident.

Stanley says, "if you're not paying attention to what's in front of you or your surroundings when you're driving, then that's dangerous."

For Angela Whitfield, one close call a few years ago was enough to change her habits.

"On the phone, I was just sitting at a red light and just let my foot off the brake and rolled into the car in front of me and it was nothing more than just talking on the telephone and taking my mind off of it, it was a minor thing but it could of been much worse," she said. 

Now she says, her precious cargo isn't worth the risk.

The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration says in almost 80% of crashes, drivers were looking away from the road prior to event.

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