“You can’t do one job well while focusing on another,” says Peggy Sue Garber, trauma and injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. “You can’t focus on the road if you’re focused on your phone.” That’s the message Garber and her colleagues are trying to drive home with a new distracted driving simulator. The simulator looks like a video game console, according to the Mankato Free Press, “with a TV monitor, a steering wheel and foot pedals.” Drivers “wear glasses that slow their response times and try to maneuver around distractions on the road.” Garber is taking the simulator on the road to area businesses, schools and community events to “demonstrate how dangerous it is to drive while distracted.” She hopes this hands-on approach will help convince people to keep their hands on the wheel — and their eyes on the road — while driving. Brian Bartlett, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, tells the Free Press that the simulator “gave him a sense of how dangerous texting and driving really is.”
There’s little doubt that distracted driving has become a public health concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every day in the United States, “more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.” While distracted driving includes other things like eating, grooming, using navigation systems and talking on the phone, the organization says texting is “especially dangerous” because it involves three types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. And the newest drivers are those most likely to offend, as a University of Michigan study recently found that about “30 percent of teens read a text message once or more every time they drive,” with about 20 percent admitting to having “multi-text conversations while driving.”
But it’s not just teens. The Free Press says “94 percent of drivers” admit to some type of distracted driving. “It seems so common sense to not do something that we all know is dangerous, and yet people continue to risk their lives and the lives of their friends and family,” says Garber. She believes that “it’s going to take every one of us to hold each other accountable” in order to change the culture around distracted driving. And that means more than just turning your phone off when you drive. Don’t text someone you know is driving, says Garber, and if someone calls you from behind the wheel, tell them “to call me back when you get there, because I love you and want you to get there safe.”
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