Distracted Driving: Anything that diverts the driver's attention away from the primary tasks of navigating a vehicle and responding to critical events.
Driving is a complex task, requiring a motorist's full attention. Anything that diverts the driver's eyes or attention from the roadway, even for 1-2 seconds, could result in tragedy.
Is it widespread? Go for a drive around the city, especially if you are in a vehicle that sits high, like an SUV, or on a motorcycle. Then get back to me.
Multitasking drivers not only put themselves at risk, but increase the risk of injuring or killing their passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, or innocent victims traveling in another vehicle.
I can usually count five to 10 drivers using their cellphones on my way to work every morning and probably double that number on my way home. If we could peer inside the cars with tinted windows ... that's a column for another day.
In 2011, the CHP issued more than 168,000 citations statewide to motorists who were in violation of the hands-free law for cellphone and texting violations. That was three years ago. I can venture that there are many more cellphones in use today than there were three years ago.
Like the worst case of poison oak, a nearly irresistible itch, you are driving in your car and your cell beeps, tweets and vibrates. It is almost impossible not to check it and see why. Sending a quick text, reading an "important" text, calling to check on X (work, kids, friends, family, dog, etc.).
Safe operation of a vehicle requires motorists to pay attention to their driving, other vehicles around them and changing road conditions. Always drive defensively.
You can't if your mind is averted elsewhere. We here at the CHP use the phrase, "It's Not Worth It." And you know what, it really isn't.
From an officer's standpoint, texting and talking on a cellphone looks like DUI. Some of the clues a CHP officer uses to identify a possible impaired driver are the same for a driver who is on their cellphone. Violators weave, speed up, slow down, etc. Do you see any similarities?
Clearly this behavior is unsafe while operating a vehicle.
Studies have shown texting is a far more hazardous distraction. When we text, we use our hands to type, our eyes to see what we are typing, and our mind to think about the message. What is left to spare when it comes to driving? The answer is we drive on autopilot, hoping nothing will happen in the time we are not paying attention.
We all know by now cellphones are the most talked about form of distraction, but many other distractions can be just as dangerous.
Using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS), eating, drinking, changing CD's, applying makeup, adjusting the temperature, the list is endless. I once cited a driver playing his trumpet while driving on the freeway!
Please keep in mind, any distraction that prevents you from safely operating a motor vehicle is dangerous and illegal.
Over the next few weeks, from Bakersfield to Modesto, the CHP will conduct various distracted-driving operations:
"Operation No Cell Phones Around Schools" will take place today through Friday and will focus on reckless and distracted driving.
"Operation Cell Free Friday, Saturday, and Sunday" will take place during the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. CHP officers will be vigilant in our zero tolerance of distracted driving violations.
In my next article I will talk about some of the programs the CHP has developed to combat distracted driving. But we cannot do it alone — we need your help.