Eyes on the road and off the phone

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Drivers in Hampton Roads need to put down their cellphones and breakfast sandwiches when they’re on the road. This should be common sense, but devices remain too enticing in the middle of a long drive.

I understand the temptation. My typical morning commute to work is 45 minutes, and then I’m often driving around the city for 15 to 25 minutes at a time.

I know how it feels when emails pop up on your smartphone begging to be answered. When you’re dying to hear one particular song, so you glance down at your Spotify app and simultaneously veer too far right in your lane.

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We feel fortified in our cars, and there’s a sense of security and disconnect that comes with that. Until we’re brutally reminded that our distractions have consequences for both ourselves and others on the road.

According to AAA Tidewater Virginia, 10 people are killed daily in the United States as a result of distracted-driving crashes, adding to the 40,000 human beings that died in 2017 from their crash injuries.

“No distraction — whether texting or eating a sandwich — is ever worth the loss of life on the roadway,” Dr. Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia, stated in a press release. “These senseless deaths can easily be prevented if drivers simply choose to focus on the core task of driving when behind the wheel.”

We like to think that we can multitask as we drive, myself included. But even technology that’s designed to give us the best of both worlds has proven to be detrimental.

The latest AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research revealed that drivers who talk on a cellphone behind the wheel — whether it’s handheld or hands-free — are still increasing their odds of a crash.

Voice-based and touch-screen features meant to make multitasking easier still can still distract drivers for more than 40 seconds at a time, and a lot can happen in those seconds when you’re going more than 60 miles per hour on the interstate.

According to previous research, just removing your eyes from the road for two seconds doubles the risk of a crash, according to the press release.

“Contrary to what some drivers may think, hands-free, handheld and in-vehicle technologies are not distraction-free, even if a driver’s eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel,” according to the press release.

Texting and emailing while driving is prohibited in Virginia. Drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits and provisional driver’s licenses are prohibited from doing either behind the wheel.

Again, I understand the mobile-device draw of wanting to send a funny text back or switching from a podcast to new music while you’re in the middle of a long commute north for some weekend fun.

But do yourself a favor and keep your distractions to an absolute minimum. You don’t want to learn this lesson after an accident changes your life and the lives of others.