Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission
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Don’t let distractions keep you from the fireworks this July Fourth holiday

The Iowa Department of Transportation is reporting that 2012 is already turning out to be a very deadly year on Iowa roadways. With the busy travel time for the July Fourth holiday coming soon, the Iowa DOT wants to make sure you make it to the fireworks by cautioning drivers to focus their attention on the task of driving when behind the wheel and ensuring that all persons in the vehicle are buckled up.
Of the 153 deaths reported in January through May 2012, 33 involved crashes where a vehicle crossed the centerline and caused a collision. This is compared to 12 such fatalities in the same time period in 2011; and an average of 24 deaths for these five months in the five-year period from 2006-2010.
Jeremey Vortherms, the Iowa DOT’s state safety engineer, said, “Crossed centerline and lane departure crashes are almost always caused by driver distraction, which means most of them are preventable. It takes only a fraction of a second to be distracted while driving, which can have permanent and irrevocable consequences. Because everyone is affected when drivers are distracted, everyone must be part of the solution.”
According to www.distraction.gov, nationally 3,092 people were killed in 2010 in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
Many distractions within your vehicle can divert your attention away from the primary task of driving and should not be conducted while your vehicle is in motion. There are four primary types of distractions, any one of which can lead to a crash.

  • Visual distractions (looking away)are activities that cause a driver to take his or her eyes off the road; for example, watching a TV/movie, reading a map or newspaper, observing the actions of others in the vehicle, or looking at a navigational device.  
  • Manual distractions (hands off the wheel)involve a driver removing his or her hands from the vehicle’s steering wheel; for example, adjusting your mirrors/steering wheel/seat, texting, fiddling with any of the dozens of electronic gadgets in the vehicle, personal grooming, eating/driving, smoking, or tending to passengers or pets.
  • Cognitive distractions (look, but don’t see)cause drivers to take their thought and concentration off the road; for example, using a hands-free or Bluetooth device, daydreaming, talking to passengers, texting.
  • Auditory distractions (following the sound)are the noises and sounds inside your vehicle that can distract you; for example,carrying a conversation on the phone, passenger conversations, and listening to the radio/TV/movie/other electronic device.

Texting demands a driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention, and is considered the most risky in-vehicle driver distraction. Banned in Iowa, texting while driving can affect a driver’s ability to the same extent as driving drunk.

Safe driving includes minimizing distractions, wearing seat belts, obeying speed limits, and never driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.