Did you take it? How did you do? Here are my answers:
1. In general, distracted driving means hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off the driving situation.
2. A psychologist may have a more precise definition, but when applied to driving “cognitive blindness” refers to having your eyes open and looking at the road ahead, but the traffic situation not registering because your mind is distracted by something, such as a conversation.
3. According to traffic safety experts at Virginia Tech, about 37 percent of a driver’s attention can be diverted when talking on a cellphone, even in hands-free mode, just from listening to the other party on the call and thinking about the conversation rather than the traffic situation.
4. False. As discussed in several posts on this blog, though texting per se is probably more prevalent among drivers under age 25, the problem of distracted driving is moving into the mainstream, as auto manufacturers introduce into new cars dashboard-mounted screens that synchronize with Smartphone interfaces, allow drivers to surf the Internet, and create new forms of distraction. So, while the distracted driving problem may currently be concentrated in younger drivers, it is moving rapidly into cars driven by older drivers.
5. Going at 30 MPH, a car goes about 130 feet/43 yards/almost half a football field in three seconds. A car going 60 MPH goes about 263 feet/86 yards/almost a full football field in three seconds. (I guess we can say that a little bit of distraction goes a long way.)
6. The three steps in avoiding a crash are: (1) recognizing the situation that requires action (slowing or stopping the car, or maneuvering); (2) taking the action needed to avoid the crash (stepping on the brake, steering, or both); and (3) slowing the car, bringing it to a stop, or completing the evasive maneuver.
7. The average text message takes five seconds to compose and send.
8. If you are distracted while driving, even for a few seconds, your car covers a significant distance; distraction eliminates the time and distance a driver needs to take the three steps necessary to avoid a crash.
9. Texting is dangerous because the average text message (five seconds) takes longer than the shortest time (three seconds) necessary to avoid a crash. In other words, texting takes away a driver’s opportunity to slow or stop the car or take evasive action.
Bonus Question: Texting is the most dangerous form of distracted driving because texting involves all three forms of distraction listed above: eyes off the road, at least one hand off the wheel, and mind off the situation. (Some people say they can text without looking at the screen, but in any event, texting while keeping your eyes on the road is one form of cognitive blindness).
10. According to a prominent study by a major traffic safety research center, a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely than the safest drivers to be involved in a crash.
11. Licensing follows the rules of your home state, but when you drive in another state, you follow that state’s distracted driving rules. And ignorance of the law because you live in another state is not an excuse.
12. (This is one I just learned recently): In general, if the ignition is on, your car is “in motion,” even if you have your foot on the brake and the car is stopped. A few months ago I observed a situation that explains why this is important: I was driving on an Interstate highway and came across the scene of an accident that had happened minutes earlier. Traffic on my side of the highway was slow due to rubbernecking, but on the side where the accident had occurred, it was stopped completely. About 200 yards behind the accident, a fire truck with its lights flashing and sirens blaring was also honking furiously at a driver who was stopped and blocking the emergency vehicles from getting to the scene. Why? The driver was texting, and oblivious to the emergency vehicles behind him!
13. I have a post on this topic — whether teens should be allowed to use a GPS. The point is that a GPS with a voice providing directions may be useful in helping drivers avoid getting lost. However, any GPS that requires or allows a driver to use a keyboard while driving is plainly distracted driving, and could easily be as dangerous as texting.
14. Trick (and tricky) question. This question highlights the fact that many state laws on distracted driving try to do the impossible — to keep up with technology and define which types of electronic devices are permitted and prohibited. These laws often include exceptions that are out of date almost as soon as the laws take effect, because the technology changes so rapidly — the exemption for “audio” being a good example. Obviously, the drafters of laws with exceptions for things like audio, just two or three years ago, did not envision a single device that delivers radio, music, GPS directions, texting, Internet surfing, etc., such that exempting audio makes no sense and only confuses drivers and the general public as to what is permitted and what isn’t.
I hope this quiz has been helpful in describing some of the key issues in texting and districted driving. Class dismissed!