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. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.