Distracted Driving a Deadly Epidemic

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle crashes and near-crashes.  A study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), stated that 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called distracted driving a “deadly epidemic”.

The VTTI study indicated that the distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash and other studies have shown that drivers that text message while driving take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds.

To get a better understanding of the incredible dangers of Distracted Driving we can use a phrase that is associated with security and security driving – “The Kill Zone”. Although the term Kill Zone is used by the security community it can also describe any scenario that creates an emergency for the driver and passengers. Not looking where you are going for 5 seconds definitely falls into that category. But no matter what the scenario is, a Kill Zone is a time-distance relationship. How much time do you have and how close is the problem (distance)?  The Kill Zone is directly related to the speed of the vehicle when the incident occurs. When you examine the time distance relationship closely it’s easy to see why it is a “deadly epidemic”. If you were driving at 20 MPH and took your eyes of the road for 5 seconds you would move 150 feet through space blind.

40 MPH at 5 Seconds you move 300 Feet
50 MPH at 5 Seconds you move 375 Feet
60 MPH at 5 Seconds you move 450 Feet

An example;  You are 300 feet from an traffic light moving at 40 mph which is 60 feet per second. You get a text message it takes 3 seconds to read the message – that means you drove 180 feet (3 seconds x 60 fps) without looking at the road.

You were 300 feet from the traffic light, but as your were reading the text message, you moved 180 feet. When you looked up from the text message, you are 120 feet (300 -180) from the traffic light that has now changed from yellow to red.

You are 120 feet in front of the red traffic light and closing in at 60 fps.  Quick arithmetic tells you that he have two seconds to react.

If you can get you foot on the brake in a half-second (that’s fast), you will travel 30 feet (half of 60 fps).  So at the point of applying his brakes, you are 90 feet from the traffic (the initial 120 feet minus the 30 feet it took to reach for the brake).  You just applied the brakes.

You will have to stop a car moving at 40 MPH (60 feet a sec) in 1.5 seconds. Life is going to get terribly exciting.

Like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) a group of parents, whose children have been killed by distracted drivers, have formed an association “Focus Driven” you can get info at http://www.focusdriven.org/

Also the government has created a web site specifically for the subject of distracted driving. http://www.distraction.gov/