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Opinion: Stay focused on the road, not the phone

Ryan Klitzsch
April 28, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary


We've all been there. Driving the same route day-in and day-out, a hundred times before, with little to differentiate one trip from another. Then there's that one moment when something unforeseen occurs requiring you to instantly maneuver your vehicle and test how good your reflexes and anti-lock brakes really are - making this all-too-routine trip very different from the rest. Maybe it was an unexpected bottleneck slowing traffic, a darting deer, or a blown-out tire. Whatever the reason, the difference between continuing on your mundane drive and having to call your insurance agent (or worse, an ambulance) probably had to do with whether you were distracted from driving at the moment the event occurred. There are many distractions that prevent a driver from focusing on the task of driving: changing the radio or a CD, talking to passengers, eating, using a cell phone or text messaging, to name a few.

Distraction results from any non-driving activity that lessens the attention of the driver on the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing or causing others to crash. There are three main types of distractions: (1) visual (taking your eyes off of the road), (2) manual (taking your hands off of the wheel), and (3) cognitive (taking your mind off of what you're doing). While all distractions can endanger a driver's safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction. To combat this obvious threat, states have been passing texting bans for all drivers at a feverish pace. Washington was the first state to enact a texting-while-driving ban in May 2007. Since then, 22 states have banned texting for all drivers.

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising and disturbing facts. According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Recent numbers for 2008 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver and more than half a million were injured. Unfortunately younger, inexperienced drivers less than 20 years of age are the most vulnerable and have the highest percentage of distraction-related fatal crashes. Fortunately, in 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed a ban on the use of cell phones (texting and talking) while driving for drivers under the age of 18. However, all drivers are shown to have issues with driving when distracted by cell phone use. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Even more alarming, a study from the University of Utah found that using a cell phone while driving, whether it's hand-held or handsfree, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent!

So whether traveling home from work or driving from one meeting to the next, that call or e-mail can wait. Keep your driving safe, uneventful, and stay focused on the road ahead!

Ryan Klitzsch is dvision director, Traffic Safety, at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's.

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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