Steering Clear of Distracted Driving

April 4, 2012
In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month this April, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Transportation Practice Specialty (TPS) group is spreading the word that every driver must steer clear of the dangers of distracted driving.

Statistics show that 6,000 people are killed by distracted drivers every year, and another 500,000 are injured. Young drivers are more likely to be killed in distraction-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Distracted driving is dangerous and is consequences can be dire. As ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, puts it, "life can change in a second."

To illustrate this point, ASSE TPS members Earnest F. Harper, CSP, and Timothy C. Healey explained that at 40 mph, a car is traveling 58.7 feet per second (fps). If the driver takes her eyes off the road for 2.9 seconds to glance at her phone, she will have traveled 170 feet. And at 60 mph, the car is moving 88 fps, meaning that a 2.9-second glance away equals a distance of over 255 feet.

"In either case, at these common speeds, each is more than enough time to end up being several feet under that slow-moving tractor-trailer rig ahead of you that you didn't see," Healey said. "And in a 40 mph crash, a 100-pound person or child who isn't wearing a seat belt will hit the dash board with a force of 2.6 tons, and a 3,000 pound car crashing at 40 mph will experience a crash force of 80.28 tons, reducing any chance of surviving."

ASSE is urging motorists to put their phone down, or simply turn it off when they're in the car, avoid eating while driving and program the GPS before you leave. Minimizing distractions allows drivers to maximize their attention on the road.

To avoid distracted driving, the TPS group suggests:

· Program your device so you do not answer and notify the caller that you will be driving and are not available to respond at the moment. In an emergency, family should know to call 911 or other family members.
· In case someone urgently needs to reach you, devise a procedure such as three rings, hang up, wait 2 minutes, call again and repeat to allow time to pull over safely.
· Know your route in advance and, if using a navigation system, pre-program it.
· Prepare the vehicle cab and yourself for driving, including your management of any distractions, be they inside or outside of your vehicle.
· Maintain safe spacing on the road or move to a less obstructed lane.

Currently, 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers and many states now ban cell phone use by drivers.

TPS has developed a How to Avoid Distracted Driving' tip sheet discussing crash force, distraction events, distance traveled in seconds and more available at

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