Tom Magazzu - Editor

Distracted driving has been a hot topic for several years. The following information details distracted driving. Much of the information is courtesy of Rebecca Hovater’s State Farm Agency in Muscle Shoals.

If you aren’t giving your full attention to the road, the cars around you, and the speed limit, you are a distracted driver. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three types of distracted driving exist:

• Manual distraction: when a driver takes their hands off the wheel to adjust the radio, reach for an item, or pet their dog.

• Visual distraction: when a driver takes their eyes off the road to look at an accident, glance at a text message, or look at their kids in the back seat.

• Cognitive distraction: when a driver takes their mind off the act of driving to daydream, think about a problem at work, or consider their grocery list.

• Examples of distracted driving include cell phone or smart phone use for talking, texting, or web surfing, reading, grooming, eating and drinking, and operating a computer, radio, CD or DVD player, or navigation system.

• Due to duration and frequency variations, these examples are not equally distracting to drivers.

• Texting involves, manual, visual, and mental distraction and is among the worst of all driver distractions.

• Younger drivers are at greatest risk of crashing while driving distracted.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2016 and another 391,000 were injured.

• Distracted driving is a leading cause of automobile crashes.

• Distracted driving results in thousands of preventable, injuries and deaths annually.

EVERYTHING about driving in 2019 is a distraction.

Static billboards, digital billboards are highly distracting. All blinking, scrolling, or electronic signs, political signs, real estate signs. Highway signs, especially digital and overhead signs. People walking on the road are distracting. Nice, new cars are distracting. Vanity plates can be both a visually and cognitive distraction.

Your glancing down to check speed and the fuel gauge can be considered distracting. If you try to comprehend options on a new touch screen that WILL BE a series of extended distractions.

If you hit a little road bump when reaching for that touch screen, your finger could inadvertently activate chaos in the passenger cabin. THAT WILL BE A DISTRACTION that is not easily remedied, especially if the car is still relatively new or you are not as technically inclined as some other folks.

I have a problem with the presumption that all eating and drinking is considered distracted driving.

Taking a drink of iced tea from a 32 oz. cup is a lot less distracting for me than taking my eyes off the road to check my rear and side view mirrors.

Is chewing gum distracting? What about your reaching for the piece that someone hands you?

What if you grab a piece from your console and unwrap it with one hand without ever taking your eyes off the road?

And then how are those first few chews different from eating a few peanuts?

How are those peanuts different from taking a bite of a banana or that delicious Five Guys hot dog? Unwrapping may be an issue but if your food is already unwrapped, who is to say that taking a bite of anything when your eyes don’t leave the road for more than a normal blink is remotely as dangerous as glancing over at a group of kids waving signs and your reading the words, “Youth Cheerleader Carwash?”

Conversations between people in cars can be very distracting. How are we supposed to prove fault if there is a wreck in that situation?

We are also supposed to have all hands-free communication devices while driving. However, something often has to be physically touched to engage hands-free unless your iPhone is programmed with your iTunes account in your late model vehicle. Not everyone is able to enjoy that arrangement, so that could be considered an element of discrimination in some quarters.

If we want to maintain the delusion that guns kill people and we can now sue gun manufacturers over it, how culpable are automotive companies, sign companies, cell phone manufacturers, and fast food companies for accidents, damages, injuries, and deaths?

Understandably, texting, surfing, and applying make-up is a fool’s territory when driving.

The whole premise of distractions really surfaced with cell phones and texting. However the hundreds of potential examples and associated liabilities are all getting a little out of hand.