Taking your eyes off the road for 2 seconds is a big deal!

When the first cars hit the roads they were as much (or more) a novelty, as they were the first step in mechanized transportation for the masses. Going for a “Sunday Drive” was an actual activity, not just an analogy for someone taking their sweet time.  Vehicles were lighter, slower, and there wasn’t a constant sense of urgency to get from “Point A” to “Point B”.

Fast forward a little over a century and our vehicles have transformed into an average of a 2-ton living room/office/daycare that can cover 95 feet every second traveling down the road.

A lot of talk is occurring about distracted driving, but have you ever thought… “I can take my eyes off the road for 2 seconds, its no big deal”?  To change a radio station, to answer a phone call, to look for an item you’ve dropped.  Nearly every single one of us has at some point, even those who use a hands-free device.  The more times you take your eyes off the road for just those two seconds, increases your likelihood of an incident. Do you believe in the great multitasking lie? 

Let’s break it down.

The Facts about Distracted Driving

When analyzing how long it takes for a vehicle to come to a stop, there are several factors to consider.  Road conditions, visibility, tire and brake maintenance, driver physical condition, and mental acuity just to name a few.

How long does it take to stop your car when you recognize a hazard?

Let’s consider an optimum driver, in a well-maintained vehicle, under optimal conditions, in an average sedan-sized vehicle.  The time that it would take that driver to recognize a hazard and develop a response is about 3/4 of a second.  Once that driver has decided to act, the act itself will take another 3/4 of a second to physically maneuver the foot from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal and act.  At a speed of 65mph that driver’s reaction distance just covered 143 feet.  Once the brake is applied, it will take another 201 feet for that vehicle to come to a complete stop.

344 feet total; that’s 44 feet longer than the distance from one goal line to another at Lambeau Field.  At 30mph the total stopping distance is about half the length of a football field.  The larger and heavier the vehicle, the longer the stopping distance

There are times that even under ideal circumstances we are unable to avoid a collision, however its increasingly a problem that distracted drivers don’t provide themselves with proper awareness of the road.  Taking your eyes off the road “just for two seconds” adds another roughly 140-150 feet of travel distance on top of the football field distance it will take to stop.

Wisconsin’s “Move Over Law”

‘Increasingly as a result of distracted driving numerous law enforcement, Fire/EMS, tow trucks, and public works vehicles have been struck on the roadways.  Sadly, several of these have resulted in fatalities.  Wisconsin’s “Move Over Law” mandates that when you approach law enforcement, ambulance, fire truck, tow truck, utility vehicle and/or highway maintenance vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road with warning lights activated… You MUST move over to vacate the lane closest to the vehicle with warning lights if there is more than one directional lane.  If the roadway is a single lane in each direction or you can’t safely move over, you MUST reduce your speed.

A lot can happen as you travel the length of that football field waiting to come to a complete stop.  People can step out between vehicles or emergency vehicles may move.  Please approach emergency scenes and temporary traffic control areas slowly and provide as wide a berth as possible.  As you approach these scenes, that change of the radio station, that phone call, or that dropped item can wait.  These areas demand your undivided attention for everyone’s safety.

Don’t get distracted from the real purpose of driving

It is important to remember that the real purpose of driving is to get from “Point A” to “Point B” in a safe and timely manner.  As much as life conditions us to try to maximize our productivity, at home or work, it’s important to remember that our safety and the safety of those around us on the road is paramount.

Author: Chris Schlechta Safety and Loss Control Manager