Failure to ignore distractions while driving could be

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Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 8:23pm

Last week a student stopped for the light at the corner of the CEU campus. After patiently waiting, he started forward the moment the light changed. Halfway through the intersection he noticed the cross-traffic staring at him. Looking up, he noticed a glaring red light for his direction.

If the other drivers hadn't noticed his mistake and prepared for it, there might have been a nasty accident. Hastily he threw the car in reverse, yet during the entire ordeal he never stopped talking on his cell phone.

I was at that light when that mistake was made. I was the first car in the cross-traffic, and would have hit that student if I hadn't been paying attention.

Many students drive to school each day while others ride with someone who drives.

With so many vehicles on the road, accidents happen. Many of those accidents could be prevented by avoiding driver distractions.

A common distraction these days is the cell phone. Students think nothing of calling a friend after class, then getting behind the wheel with phone in hand. They drive off with only one hand on the wheel and half their attention on the road.

Even an earpiece phone doesn't solve the problem. A driver may have both hands free, but their attention will still be focused on their conversation.

People should turn off or set their phones aside before starting their car. Better to miss a call than cause an accident.

Another common distraction is refreshments. Many students will stop for coffee or a sandwich on their way to school.

They then eat their breakfast or lunch while driving, which can lead to problems. Again the driver has one hand occupied, holding a meal instead of the steering wheel.

There have been many reports of accidents caused by a driver dropping their morning coffee on their lap, then swerving into oncoming traffic while dealing with the problem.

Instead of eating in the car, take the time to wake up early in the morning, or carry food in your bag to munch between classes. It may be inconvenient, but it is much safer in the long run.

A third driving distraction is appearance. It may sound silly, but many accidents are caused by one person who cared more about fixing their hair or makeup than watching the road. This isn't just a problem for women though.

For every woman fixing her makeup in the rearview mirror, there is a man using that same mirror to shave.

A car should be used for driving, not handling those last minute adjustments before class.

Students should wake up earlier, or make those last minute touch-ups in a school restroom.

Music can also be a distraction. Many students can be seen turning radio dials or swapping CDs.

When they can't find the station or disk they want, their eyes are drawn away from the road in favor of looking through channels and album titles. Even a short distraction provides enough time for something to go wrong.

While some might think a stoplight provides enough time, being distracted runs the risk of delayed reaction time, which in turn can lead to dangerous driving.

If music is really that important of a problem, pull to the side of the road until you have dealt with it.

One last problematic distraction lies in passengers. Many of us have asked a friend for a lift to school, and end up chatting about one thing or another. What many don't realize is that there are countless drivers that just cannot focus on both a conversation and the road.

I have seen many drivers swerve into the other lane because they need to face their passenger while talking. This can be a deadly problem, but it is one that is easily avoided.

A passenger should be able to judge when it is safe to talk. If the driver cannot handle both driving and talking, wait until you reach your destination before striking a conversation. It is better to avoid an accident than catch up on the latest news.

Everyday there are car accidents. Some end only in minor bruises, some in several deaths. It may seem inconvenient to put safety before comfort, but it is worth it.

Maybe a single precaution can stop an accident, and maybe stopping that single accident will save a life. When you look at it that way, is missing a phone call or holding off on a conversation really so bad?

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