Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Distractions)



More people drive with their eyes closed than drive drunk!  Oh, you didn’t know that people drive with their eyes closed?  It’s absolutely true.

There is the case of a fellow who was driving his family from NY to Alabama.  He was taking his kids to meet his father; the kids never met their grandfather.  The plan was to drive through the night to save money by not stopping at a motel.  Well, somewhere in North Carolina, he fell asleep behind the wheel, drifted into oncoming traffic and wiped out the whole family.  Trying to drive with your eyes closed is a very dangerous behavior.

Then there are those who would say that driving while drowsy (DWD) is common but people don’t purposely drive with their eyes closed and that can’t be more common than drunk driving. Really?

When people drive in dense fog, isn’t that driving with their eyes closed?  It usually leads to multiple car crashes.  There have been crashes where more than 100 cars and trucks were involved.  They were driving in fog and not able to see very far ahead so when they suddenly came upon a crash scene, they also crashed because they couldn’t see that there was a problem up ahead.  Is that not the same as driving with your eyes closed?

Then there’s the case of a 32-year old lady who was texting while driving and also drifted across the center line slamming into an oncoming truck.   If she wasn’t paying attention to the road, could it not be said she was driving with her eyes closed?  And she was not a teenager, the group that usually gets blamed for distracted driving.

Now, it’s true we have plenty of drunk drivers on the road.  But, who among us never, ever drives distracted?  We all do!  And driving distracted is the same as driving with your eyes closed because at that moment you see nothing that pertains to your driving.

And when a driver hits a pedestrian and then jumps out of the car and proclaims, “I didn’t see you!” is that not enough evidence to prove that they were, for all intents and purposes, driving with their eyes closed?

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently completed the largest light-vehicle driving study ever conducted with more than 3,500 participants across six data collection sites in the United States.  The study represents the largest crash database available to date, with more than 1,600 verified crash events ranging in severity from low, such as tire and curb strikes, to severe, including police-reportable crashes.  The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They concluded that drivers more than double their crash risk for more than half of their trips when they choose to engage in distracting activities.  They sited behaviors such as using or reaching for a cell phone, reading or writing, reaching for a non-cell phone object (such as a comb or money), or using touch-screen menus on a vehicle instrument panel as activities that require drivers to take their eyes off the road or, in other words, drive with their eyes closed!

The driving study method pioneered at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute involved equipping volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobtrusive instrumentation – including a suite of cameras, sensors, and radar – that continuously collected real-world driver performance and behavior, from the time the drivers turned on the ignition to the time they turned off their vehicles.

Drivers in the research program participated between one and two years each, resulting in more than 35 million miles of continuous naturalistic driving data that are securely housed in a data warehouse located on-site at the transportation institute.

When analyzing 905 high severity crashes involving injury or property damage, researchers found that, overall, driver-related factors that include fatigue, error, impairment, and distraction were present in nearly 90 percent of the crashes.

People, observation is the name of the game.  Too many drivers think speed is the name of the game.  They mistakenly feel that the faster you can move a car, the better a driver you are.  That’s ka-ka, as I call it.  Every driver who ever crashed thought that they were in control…moments before the crash.  It takes no skill at all to press a gas pedal.  The mark of a truly great driver is how observant they are; what they see and what they’re aware of.  So, make sure your eyes are wide open when driving and use them effectively to scan the road from side to side and far ahead.

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