17 June 2014

Distracted Driving - Decide to Drive

When the opportunity to write about distracted driving came through my inbox, I signed up because I knew exactly what story I was going to tell.
When I was 16, I was driving with my learner's permit. My mom was in the front seat, and my three brothers were in back. On the driveway, I started fighting with my 14-year-old brother turned my head to yell at him, turned the steering wheel as well, and drove off the driveway, into the woods. We rolled 1.5 times, landing upside down against a tree.
Everyone was bruised but generally and miraculously uninjured, and I didn't get my driver's license until I was 18, because my mom and I were both traumatized, and I don't think either one of us wanted to teach me how to drive.
That's a story about stupid teenagers with poor judgment, and I was one of them.
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I vowed to do better.
I'm very stern about behavior in my car. I can't have kids fighting, I can't have dramatic conversations, I can't be getting sucked into anything.
If the kids are punching each other in the backseat or god knows what else, I will pull over until they chill the eff out.
Then I got selected to actually write about distracted driving, and I realized that I would rather tell this other story.
In 2008, I had picked up my brother James and his friend, both teenagers at the time, in downtown Santa Cruz. Gabriel and I had been at the beach, so he was sandy and naked in his car seat. The drive home was long and full of traffic, because Santa Cruz traffic in the afternoon is horrible. We were stopping and going and stopping and going on the freeway. I was using my phone to play music. I hope you're not picturing an iPhone.
No, I was using my Motorola RIZR with its sweet MicroSD card.
Traffic sped up, I was finding something on my phone, traffic stopped again.
I did not.
I rear-ended the very nice and undeserving woman in front of me.
I totaled my car.
The boys were all miraculously uninjured.
I broke my foot, but worse things have surely happened.
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I vowed to do better.
I still use my phone for GPS when I'm driving, but I always set it before hand. I'm very careful about looking at the road and not at devices inside the car. I don't text and drive. I don't phone and drive. In 2008, it was still not illegal to use your phone when driving, but I had some important first hand evidence of what could happen if you were distracted by what was going on inside your car. I was an early adopter.
Then a month or so passed between being selected to write about distracted driving and the actual posting window for this campaign.
During that month I totaled my car.
I wasn't on the phone.
There weren't other people in the car.
But I was exhausted.
It was 3:30 in the morning. I hadn't been drinking, but I had been out with friends. I had driven everyone home, and all that left was my own bed calling to me.
I could have stayed at a friend's house, but I wanted to go home.
I knew I was tired.
OF COURSE I knew I was tired.
I thought about stopping for coffee but I wanted to be able to fall asleep when I got home!
At the point of my wreck, I was maybe three miles from home. I remember thinking that I should pull over and take a quick nap, but then I thought, "I'm so close to home, I'll be fine."
I wasn't fine.
I fell asleep at the wheel, drove into a field, and totaled my car.
I narrowly missed running my car into a tree, or god forbid someone's house.
Any farther up the road and it could easily have been off a cliff.
My wrecked car, after I fell asleep at the wheel
My wrecked face, which could have been much worse
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I am vowing to do better.
I'm not going to drive while tired anymore.
If I start to feel sleepy, I'll pull over.
Even if I'm almost home.
Even if I want nothing more than to just get there already.

I think that driving while tired is its own kind of distracted driving. We all do it. After my wreck many of my friends told me that they have almost fallen asleep at the wheel, or fallen asleep only to startle awake just before drifting off the road. Or fallen asleep and had something minor happen.

I would like to use these three very traumatic but ultimately and very fortunately not life ruining car crashes to make us all better drivers.
You don't need to be on the phone to be distracted.
People can be distracting.
Maps can be distracting.
Music can be distracting.
Heated feelings can be distracting.
I recommend against using your phone at all while driving, but if you must, make sure it is through voice operated, hands free technology.
Set your GPS destination prior to starting your trip.
And please, if you are tired, please pull over.
Take a walk, drink some coffee.
Take a nap.
Every time you get behind the wheel, you are making a choice to drive.
Please do so responsibly, and with your whole mind focused on the task at hand.
Distracted driving is no accident. Crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless drivers and, therefore, are not accidents.
I'm joining Team No More Crashes.
 • The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance want to increase awareness about the risks of distracted driving.
• The Decide to Drive program aims to empower drivers and passengers to speak up about distracted driving, continue the conversation at home, work and play, and reduce distracted behaviors behind the wheel.
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes.
• Orthopedic surgeons—the specialists who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and traumas—along with our partners, the automakers, would rather help all drivers "decide to drive" each time they get in the car and to keep bones and limbs intact.
• Remember, the most advanced safety feature of any vehicle is the driver. The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

1 comment:

  1. Auto Alliance is doing a good job with this distracted driving awareness program. If someone is facing a DUI, he must never choose an attorney based solely on their cost. A good attorney can help to become acquit rather than convict. My friend who is office in charge with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer often tells me how his boss help his clients.