In his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), author Tom Vanderbilt wrote, “Driving is probably the most complex everyday thing we do. It is a skill that consists of at least fifteen hundred ‘subskills.’ At any moment, we are navigating through terrain, scanning our environment for hazards and information, maintaining our position on the road, judging speed, making decisions (about twenty per mile, one study found), evaluating risk, adjusting instruments, anticipating the future actions of others…A survey of one stretch of road in Maryland found that a piece of information was presented every two feet, which at 30 miles per hour, the study reasoned, meant the driver was exposed to 1,320 ‘items of information,’ or roughly 440 words, per minute. This is akin to reading three paragraphs like this one while also looking at lots of pretty pictures, not to mention doing all the other things mentioned above — and then repeating the cycle, every minute you drive.”

And yet, people are surprised at how serious the risk is from distracted driving, even though the statistics are compelling. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. Distractions include using a cell phone, eating and drinking, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, checking voice mail, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player, and quieting a child.

Mark Berg is a former instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program. His email address is MABerg175@comcast.net.

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