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Drivers must get rid of distractions
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April is "National Distracted Driving Awareness Month." According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 20 percent of traffic collisions involve distracted drivers. The definition of "distracted drivers" consists of three categories: visual, cognitive, or manual.

Visual distractions take your eyes off of the road, other traffic that may be relevant to your path of travel or any other activity that you must be paying attention to in order to operate your vehicle in a safe manner. One example of this is "rubbernecking," paying attention to an accident or traffic stop instead of to your own driving. Many people become preoccupied when they notice a police vehicle behind them or nearby, which distracts them from driving safely. It is important to pay close attention.

Cognitive distractions encompass thinking about other things such that your brain fails to properly process visual or audible information necessary for driving safely. Examples of cognitive distractions are daydreaming and driving while angry or upset. Oftentimes our first instinct is to leave when we are upset with someone, but it is not wise to do so. Or when we receive news that someone we care about is injured or sick, it is best to have someone drive you to ensure safe arrival at your destination.

An example of "manual distraction" is taking your hands off of the steering wheel. It could also include such things as driving along a freeway with a foot out of the window, applying make-up, shaving, or eating. It also may include using a cell phone or smart phone for talking, texting or reading, talking to passengers, grooming, pets riding on the driver's lap, using various electronic devices like GPS and DVD players, adjusting CD/MP3 players or the radio, and anything else that diverts a motorist's attention from the essential tasks and functions of operating a motor vehicle. Smoking is one of the most common distractions drivers engage in. Most parents can also attest to the fact that children can be quite distracting, and it is especially important that parents be cognizant of this since children are "precious cargo."

Some interesting facts revealed by studies in the recent past include a statistic that suggests that cell phone use and operating other electronic devices slow reaction time by as much as a person who has .08 blood alcohol content. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times a likely to get into collisions that include serious injuries.

The theme for Distracted Driving Awareness Months is, "It's not worth it," - a most appropriate phrase that juxtaposes the grave dangers of driving while distracted against the trivial activities that so many of us engage in whilst driving. Accordingly, this campaign relies on educating the public for awareness and habit-changing purposes, while complementing the effort with strict enforcement of the applicable traffic laws.