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2014-04-17

Myth of multi-tasking! April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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Most of us incorrectly assure ourselves that we can multi-task! After all, we can walk and chew gum at the same time! Right? When we stop and think about those activities - chewing gum and walking, we have to admit that walking is one of those things we do that requires very little brain power; in fact, it's subconscious and nearly automatic. Unlike walking and chewing gum, both driving and using a cell phone require higher cognitive thinking. Your brain simply cannot perform two higher cognitive tasks at the same time. Instead, it must switch between the tasks, and that's where we get into problems! With technology at their fingertips, drivers are constantly faced with distractions, such as talking or texting, which places their safety and that of others at serious risk.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is launching the Talk. Text. Crash. campaign to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage Texans to put down their cell phones while driving.
Distracted driving is becoming increasingly common and dangerous, causing traffic crashes and fatalities. "The statistics in Texas are sobering," said John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director. "One in five traffic crashes in Texas is caused by a distracted driver, and last year 459 people were killed as a result." In 2013, the number of Texas crashes involving distracted driving totaled 94,943, up 4 percent from the previous year.
Drivers can be distracted by conversing with other passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls, reaching for something in the vehicle, and talking or texting on a cell phone. Among the many distractions drivers face on the road, cell phone use is one of the most common and a major cause of distracted driving traffic accidents and fatalities.
While distractions affect drivers of all ages, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that hand-held cell phone use is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. In Texas, 46 percent of urban teens and 52 percent of rural teens talk on a cell phone while driving, and nearly the same percentage text while driving. (Texas A&M Transportation Institute).
Text messaging is particularly dangerous. New research conducted last year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute showed reaction times double when drivers are distracted by text messaging. Additionally, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that's the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
The Talk. Text. Crash. campaign aims to reduce distracted driving, not only for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but throughout the year. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent, Stacy Teston, from Bandera County reminds drivers to put away their cell phones and wait until they arrive at their destination to use their phone. Although cell phone use is the most easily recognized distraction, all in-vehicle distractions are unsafe and can cause crashes or fatalities. Keep your eyes on the road and arrive alive!
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating