Summer is the season for road trips. In planning their trip, travelers ponder when and where they will travel, where they will stay, what vehicle maintenance is required, how many hours of driving will be required each day, whether or not the driving can be shared, how much luggage each traveler can bring, and so on. Of summer road trips, some might say, borrowing from Yogi Berra—ninety percent of the trip is half planning.
Mon, 08/11/2003 - 15:00 — Cedric Hughes
But consider this: the effort that goes into planning a long road trip and focusing on the task of driving is also needed for a quick drive down to the corner store. Most car accidents happen during urban rush hours when drivers are close to their homes.
RoadSense for Drivers, a safe driving guide published by The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) begins with a section entitled, “Be a Thinking Driver.” A thinking driver is one who chooses to “be fit to drive, make good decisions, and take responsibility.” Fitness to drive is about being mentally alert and able to focus on the task. It deals impairment of mental faculties caused by alcohol, drugs, fatigue, illness or emotional upset. Fitness to drive is a vast topic that we will look at in future articles.
Assuming you are fit to drive, consider the many questions you ask yourself as you grab your car keys and head out the door. What route will you take? How many stops will there be? Do you know where to park? Is there enough gas in the car? Should you add in a trip to the gas station? Is there enough time to get everything done before you need to be home again? Who’s coming with you? Any children? Are there enough seat belts for everyone? Is the dog coming? Will it have to sit in a hot car on any of your stops? For how long? Will the kids? Are you picking stuff up or dropping stuff off? Will it fit in the trunk or the carry space? Do you have your money and your driver’s license with you? Have you got your cell phone? Is it charged and turned on? Will you smoke while you drive or drink a soda or put your lipstick on at the first red light? What’s it doing outside weather-wise? Then consider whether your answers to these questions are good decisions.
Good decisions about driving ensure that once you are behind the wheel you are able to focus on the task of driving. You will best be able to focus on driving if: you have minimized the risk to yourself and your human (and animal!) passengers by ensuring that everyone is “belted-in” and all the children, for example, are seated as recommended in the back or in properly installed car-seats; you have secured all packages, bags, briefcases, etc., that you are bringing with you; you know your route and know that you have the time to travel it at the posted speed limits; you refrain from also engaging in other activities: driving and eating, driving and smoking, driving and listening to radio or tapes or CDs especially at a volume that blocks outside noise, driving and reading (!), driving and talking to passengers or on your cell phone, or driving and applying make-up.
Driving while also engaging in other activities is becoming more and more of a concern to traffic safety experts and lawmakers. Our city streets are busy and distracting. There’s a lot to look at and watch out for while you are behind the wheel, yet never have there been more distractions available inside our vehicles. For example, a limited edition Sean John Lincoln Navigator (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has partnered with Lincoln in the creation of this vehicle) due August 1, 2003 will include a Pioneer Premier Audio system with satellite radio, three DVD players, six monitors, and Playstation 2.
In mid-June, Transport Canada warned in a discussion paper published in the Canada Gazette that “in-vehicle telematics devices [computer screens offering navigation help and alarms that warn drivers when they are straying out of their lanes] are a threat to road safety because they increase driver distraction and will cause an increase in distraction-related crashes. The paper refers to research that found it took just four seconds to operate a car’s windshield wipers but 20 to 30 seconds to dial a cell phone. Three of four navigation systems controlled by hand took a full minute to operate with 75 per cent of the driver’s time during that minute being spent looking away from the road. The paper also cites a British study showing that drivers talking on cell phones had significantly slower reaction times than even drunk drivers. We will look at these issues again in future articles.
A momentary loss of focus while driving can have drastic consequences. Good decisions about driving ensure that you are able to keep both hands on the wheel at all times and focus 100% on the task of driving.