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NavigatING the Road with Distracted Drivers

What can you do to navigate safely on a road with increasingly distracted drivers?  

First, be aware of common driver distractions and make sure you are not a distracted driver yourself. According to California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are three types of distractions while driving:

  • Visual - eyes are off the road
  • Cognitive - mind is off the road
  • Manual - hands are off the wheel
Some of these distractions you can see clearly, like a person on a cell phone or eating or even combing their hair.  Others are not as easy to notice, such as a person that doesn’t know where they are going, or if their mind is preoccupied with thinking about a recent work issue or even an argument with their spouse.  The idea is to be aware so you can take measures to keep you safe on the road.

The best defense against distracted drivers is defensive driving.  If you use the SIPDE process to handle distracted drivers, you can increase your chances of avoiding potential collisions.

SIPDE stands for Search, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute.

Search – your eyes should be constantly moving to look ahead, behind, and on both sides.  Be aware of what is happening around you. 
Identify – Find the distracted drivers or potential distractions.  The distracted driver may be eating, drinking, talking or texting on the phone, reading a map, etc.  Also identify the distractions like the person in the banana suit or a car that is pulled over on the side of the road.  These are things can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road.
Predict – Try to predict the potential problems.  Will the distracted driver weave into another lane?  Will they see the traffic stopped ahead and be able to stop in time?   Consider what could happen and be prepared to take action. 
Decide - Decide what action you need to take to avoid the potential hazard.  Should you move into a different lane?  Should you decrease your speed?  Increase your following distance? Know what you will do to avoid a conflict. 
Execute – If what you predicted occurs, you are prepared to make the necessary move.  Now you take the action needed.  Steer away from the conflict, apply brakes, or accelerate to get out of the way.  These are just a few things you can do to avoid the conflict.

Remember, distractions are everywhere and so are distracted drivers.  Using the SIPDE process helps you be prepared to act quickly and keeps you from being a victim of distracted driving.  Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind in the game.


Do You Obey The Speed Limit?

If you asked a group of people what the most disobeyed traffic sign is most of them would say the stop sign or the yield sign. In fact, the most disobeyed traffic sign on our roads, streets, and highways is the maximum "Speed Limit" sign.
Speed limits are most frequently set through statutes. Speed limits can usually be lowered, or sometimes raised, from the legislated speed limit through a process called speed zoning. Common factors included in speed zoning are: 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85% of the traffic is traveling), design speed, road features, crash records, administrative judgment, engineering judgment, and political influence. 

State laws usually allow either state or local authorities to set highway speed limits above or below the statutory ones. Prior to taking such action on any portion of a highway, the law normally requires that governmental authorities conduct a study to determine the safe speed limit for that part of the highway. State laws may also allow such authorities to specify different speed limits on all or selected highways either for various times of the day or for various types of vehicles (e.g., trucks). For instance,  the Texas Transportation Commission recently voted in favor of increasing the speed limit to 85 MPH on a toll road, State Highway 130.  The concern with raising the speed limit is most drivers do not see the posted speed limit as the maximum speed limit they should be driving for safety.  To manage the safety of motorists will require strict enforcement of the posted limit by the Texas law enforcement.

Each states government and law enforcement is careful in setting the appropriate “speed limit” for our streets, roads, and highways. Drivers that are speeding, which could be driving just one mile over the maximum speed limit, continue to be a prevalent factor adding to vehicle crashes. In 2008, speeding was a factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes and more than 11,000 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes ( 

Next time you head out on the road ask yourself "Am I a safe driver"? Be aware of the posted speed limits and check how fast you’re actually driving. A 55 MPH speed limit on a highway means 55, not 65.  The speed limits apply to all lanes- right, center, and yes, even the left lane. A 30 MPH speed limit sign in a residential street means 30, not 40, even when there are no other cars are around.


Teens Tragically Ignore Passenger Limits

It has long been known that the more teenagers you put in a car, the greater the chances of a serious collision. Research shows when a teen driver has more than one passenger in the car, use of seat belts by the occupants is reduced and there are more distractions to divert the teen driver’s attention from the road. Male teen drivers especially, when accompanied by an audience, have a tendency to want to show off behind the wheel. Add night time driving and it becomes a recipe for disaster.

A case in point is a collision in which a North Carolina teen was killed while riding as a passenger with a teen driver. At the time of the crash, the 17 year old driver was carrying four passengers in his pickup truck. North Carolina’s GDL law limits drivers under the age of 18 to no more than one passenger unless the driver is accompanied by a supervising licensed driver over the age of 21.

Investigators say high speed was most likely the major contributing factor to this collision. The driver failed to negotiate a curve, swerved, hit a ditch and then overturned flipping several times before coming to rest upside down.

According to authorities, only one teen, a 16 year old back seat passenger was wearing a seat belt. The driver and three other passengers were ejected from the vehicle. The teen that died was pinned beneath the truck. The other three who were ejected had to be transported to the hospital with serious injuries. The 16 year old girl who was wearing her seat belt received only minor injuries and was treated and released at the scene.
GDL laws have been proven effective in dramatically reducing the teen death rate over the past several years but they only work when they are obeyed. Parents need to know the GDL laws and prevent their teen drivers from carrying more than the allowed number of passengers. Parents also need to know when their teen will be a passenger that their teen will be the only passenger or else prevent them from going.