Driven to Distraction: Eyes on the Road

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Pull up to any stoplight in Aggieland and you're bound to see drivers focusing on everything but the road. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that drivers who attempt to perform complex tasks while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

Senior Trooper, Eddie Carmon of the Texas Department of Public Safey says when drivers engage in something else while they're behind the wheel, they're setting themselves up for a car crash. He tells people, "If you're driving a motor vehicle you must give 100 percent of your abilities to driving the car."

Most people believe they are able to multitask while driving. It's now commonplace for people to devote the time behind the wheel to talking on their cell phones, text messaging - even reading and returning emails. Experts say attempting to do this and that as you try to drive down the highway is overloading the senses' information intake. And the situation becomes ripe for the law of physics to be displayed in a deadly way. "That vehicle becomes a thousand or two thousand or four thousand or ten thousand pound projectile that anything that gets in its' path…it has the potential of killing or destroying it," says Trooper Carmon.

Studies show that there is a strong relationship between driver inattention or driving distractions and the involvement in crashes or near crashes. One of the most common distractions is the cell phone. Many drivers know that trying to drive and hold a cell phone can pose problems. So they opt for using a hands-free device like an ear piece, blue tooth, or a speakerphone function. But as far as safety is concerned, the hands-free devices aren't necessarily safer.

Trooper Carmon says the only convenience offered by hands-free devices is allowing the driver to keep both hands on the wheel. "Your mind is still distracted and your mind is the greatest thing that you need when it comes to driving a car."

The NHTSA discovered in one experiment that hands-free devices caused drivers to make more mistakes when they were dialing and trying to hang up the phone. This resulted in more attention being diverted away from the road. Every time people get behind the wheel they must make a decision at the sound of a ring tone: Safety or convenience.