Health & Safety

June 19, 2014

Distracted driving, the epidemic

Staff Sgt. Steve Stanley
Headquarters Air Combat Command Public Affairs

The human brain struggles to complete multiple tasks efficiently. Especially if they require a higher degree of focus at the same time, like driving and texting. Therefore, texting while driving can be an extremely dangerous combination.

In 2012 alone, 3,328 were killed in distracted driving crashes according to Distraction.gov.

When people try to multitask, their ability to do each individual task suffers. According to experimental research conducted by Drs. Frank Drews, David Strayer, and Dennis L. Crouch of the University of Utah, cell phone users have been found to be 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers.

Studies show that motorists using their cell phones while driving function at a comparable rate to drivers who are intoxicated.

Cell phone use is only one type of distraction. All distractions while driving endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.

Others include:

  • Texting (Top of the list for a reason)
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Smoking
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

The controls that the brain uses to organize tasks are divided into two stages.

The first stage is switching focus from one task to another. The second is turning the attention away from the previous task and bringing focus to a new one.

This takes time, which can add up fast, especially when operating a vehicle.

When people think they are multitasking, they are actually just quickly switching their focus. The switch may be hard to notice, but that loss of focus may lead to an event that no-one ever expects to happen.

When operating a vehicle, remember to stay focused, not distracted, and keep your eyes on the road.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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