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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Careless Driving Tickets: Reading While Driving

distracted driving - texting and driving
Drivers can receive careless driving tickets for a number of reasons. One such offense is reading while driving, which is more common than many people think. Though difficult to prove unless a law enforcement officer observes it, this behavior is a dangerous distraction that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports increases drivers' chances of being involved in motor vehicle crashes by three times.

One reason that people read while driving is text messaging, which has received considerable media attention recently. Though the act of sending a text probably receives more coverage, the act of reading received texts is just as distracting. Drivers who read a text message not only physically take their eyes off the road, they take their cognitive attention off driving to process the message and perhaps formulate a response to it before beginning to type. Drivers who read text messages are just as subject to emotional reactions of surprise, happiness, or anger as those who talk on cell phones, which can mentally distract the driver for several minutes or even for the rest of the driving journey.

Reading maps and directions is also distracting for drivers, and the act of doing so is often accompanied by the process of looking for an address, the stress of being lost, and/or the confusion of driving in an unfamiliar area. If the driver is on vacation or a business trip, she or he may even be driving an unfamiliar vehicle. Again, the physical act of reading combined with mental and emotional distress creates a dangerous driving distraction. Drivers who need to consult a map or directions should pull over in a safe place; this will also give them time to orient themselves to their surroundings before continuing the trip. Having a passenger who can act as a navigator is also helpful.

Commuters to work or school often face long driving trips with heavy traffic. At times they may not be able to move at all. These drivers are often tempted to distract themselves from the wait by reading books and newspapers. Unfortunately, some of these drivers continue to read once traffic is moving again. The risks of doing this in heavy stop-and-go traffic are obvious. Books can be purchased on CD and podcasts can be downloaded from a variety of websites, and if the subject matter is too distracting, the driver can turn it off and concentrate on driving.

A defensive driving course may be required to satisfy a careless driving ticket; the course will also help drivers who have become complacent to reeducate themselves about the importance of remaining fully alert while driving.

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