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Capt. David James

Capt. David James

Can you conceive the notion of almost twice the population of Lemoore disappearing in one year as a result of distracted driving? For the first time in almost a decade, preliminary data from the National Safety Council estimates that in 2018, 40,000 people died in car crashes—a 1 percent decline from 40,231 deaths in 2017 and 40,327 deaths in 2016. An estimated 4.5 million people were seriously injured in car crashes in 2018, also a 1 percent decrease from 2017 figures. Usually, any downward trend is a reason to celebrate; however, these are more than figures for anyone affected by such tragedies.

The Naval Safety Center has compiled a few facts and tips regarding distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off driving). Texting while driving involves all three, and is extremely dangerous. It is imperative that every driver employ sound decision making while driving. The decisions we make behind the wheel can have a devastating impact on others. The following common driving distractions and safe driving tips are provided to enhance your safety:

DRIVING DISTRACTIONS:

Internal vehicle distractions: Talking, texting, reading maps, using a GPS, adjusting radio, changing a CD, eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, applying make-up, and changing clothes.

External vehicle distractions: Crash scenes; emergency vehicles, pedestrians, animals, bicyclists, billboard ads; vehicles; car alarms/horns; signs; buildings, and monuments.

SAFETY TIPS:

An effective way to mitigate distracted driving is through education and self-discipline. Learn and advocate the risks associated with driving distracted.

Take a driver improvement course to help identify and correct poor driving habits.

Avoid multi-tasking while driving. It evokes inattention blindness - a failure to see something in our path when our attention is diverted to another task.

If tempted to use cell phone while driving, turn it off or place it out of reach until safely parked.

Before driving, pre-set radio, CD, and climate controls; secure items that could move around.

Passengers must intervene if they see their operator driving distracted. Remind drivers to remain focused on driving. Offer to dial or answer calls and assist with radio/CDs/GPS.

Continue to self-assess your activities and focus level while driving. Risk identification and assessment are essential and vital tools necessary to eliminate hazards.

Be mindful that driving distractions slow perception and delays decision making. Avoid sharing the roadway with vehicles whose operators are clearly distracted or multi-tasking.

Consider the consequences of texting while driving. Make your vehicle a ‘No Text Zone’.

DID YOU KNOW?

According to National Safety Council:

Hands free is not risk free

Distractions are a top factor in fatal car crashes

At any moment 7% of drivers are using cell phones. Thousands of people have died in crashes involving cell phones – including hands-free!

The brain quickly toggles between tasks – but cannot do two things at the same time. The activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening or talking on a phone. Drivers looking out the windshield can miss up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on any kind of mobile device.

Essential trio requirements for driving:

Eyes on the road

Hands on the wheel

Mind on driving

Additionally, living in the San Joaquin Valley means that we are surrounded by two-lane highways. These highways present potentially fatal outcomes that could result during a head-on collision. As you travel on these highways keep in mind that:

One to two seconds of distracted driving is more than sufficient to result in a catastrophic accident.

You should treat every driver approaching you on the other lane as a distracted driver who may not only NOT see you, but is prone to veer into your lane.

Have an avoidance plan in mind for every car you encounter in the opposite lane because no two vehicles are the same, no two drivers are the same, and no location is the same where you are about to pass one another.

Do not rule out swerving onto the opposite lane (if the shoulder lane is NOT an option) to avoid colliding with a vehicle that is on course to collide with you. [Your ability to survive this last scenario is purely instinctive and reflexive, but by remaining vigilant of what is approaching you, your chances of survival exponentially increase.]

This issue does not stop at the base gate. The majority of traffic court offenses have to do with speeding and expired registration and insurance. We even see distracted drivers failing to safely navigate parking lots through our accident reports. Only 10 percent of personnel pulled over get a ticket. If everybody that were pulled over got a ticket, there would easily be 40-50 traffic court cases every week. Distracted driving is also a top concern here at NAS Lemoore, including texting and cell phone use. These distracted driving statistics should serve as an alarm to all of us.

The best way to end distracted driving is to educate everyone about the danger it presents and realize that we could all very-well become the “statistic.” Please share these facts with others and take the pledge to drive distraction-free. It is a powerful statement. By stopping distracted driving, we can save lives.

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All my best,

Captain David James

Commanding Officer, NAS Lemoore

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