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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Navigate the Road with Distracted Drivers

What can you do to navigate safely on a road with increasingly distracted drivers?  

First, be aware of common driver distractions and make sure you are not a distracted driver yourself. According to California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are three types of distractions while driving:
  • Visual - eyes are off the road
  • Cognitive - mind is off the road
  • Manual - hands are off the wheel
Some of these distractions you can see clearly, like a person on a cell phone or eating or even combing their hair.  Others are not as easy to notice, such as a person that doesn’t know where they are going, or if their mind is preoccupied with thinking about a recent work issue or even an argument with their spouse.  The idea is to be aware so you can take measures to keep you safe on the road.

The best defense against distracted drivers is defensive driving.  If you use the SIPDE process to handle distracted drivers, you can increase your chances of avoiding potential collisions.

SIPDE stands for Search, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute.

Search – your eyes should be constantly moving to look ahead, behind, and on both sides.  Be aware of what is happening around you. 
Identify – Find the distracted drivers or potential distractions.  The distracted driver may be eating, drinking, talking or texting on the phone, reading a map, etc.  Also identify the distractions like the person in the banana suit or a car that is pulled over on the side of the road.  These are things can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road.
Predict – Try to predict the potential problems.  Will the distracted driver weave into another lane?  Will they see the traffic stopped ahead and be able to stop in time?   Consider what could happen and be prepared to take action. 
Decide - Decide what action you need to take to avoid the potential hazard.  Should you move into a different lane?  Should you decrease your speed?  Increase your following distance? Know what you will do to avoid a conflict. 
Execute – If what you predicted occurs, you are prepared to make the necessary move.  Now you take the action needed.  Steer away from the conflict, apply brakes, or accelerate to get out of the way.  These are just a few things you can do to avoid the conflict.

Remember, distractions are everywhere and so are distracted drivers.  Using the SIPDE process helps you be prepared to act quickly and keeps you from being a victim of distracted driving.  Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind in the game.

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