Tag Archives: Adults

Driven From Distraction To Danger

Inexperience added to distraction equals a massively dangerous drive time.

I’m going through my third mind-bending, adrenaline-scarring, foot-stomping, squeal-stuffing, expletive-deleting, smile-faking, terror-strangling trip through driver education just now, which might possibly mean I’m a bit sensitive to this sort of thing.

The thing is, distraction is a huge problem for drivers of all ages, not just the road newbies.

In addition to my oldest young dude, Sarcasmo, I also know a friend my age who, only a few years ago, was looking down at the radio while driving through a parking lot and — with mind distracted — rammed into a parked car. And the strangest thing was that, in both cases, the parked car actually jumped out in front of both drivers.

At least according to their stories. Regardless, allowing yourself to be distracted can be as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after downing a few adult bevies.

Distraction can be even more dangerous than drinking for new drivers because they’ve been told again and again not to drink and drive and, for the most part, they listen to that. How often have you told your young dudette not to look at the radio while driving? Or answer the phone?

There are plenty of new advertising campaigns that warn drivers of the dangers of texting while driving. I know several adults who have listened to that and now will not even read a text while stopped at a red light. I know even more teens who say they don’t, but then respond suspiciously quickly when texted while out.

That, my friends, is plenty dangerous.

An inexperienced driver who reaches for a cellphone increases the risk for a crash by more than 700 percent, a new study found.

Using accelerometers, cameras, global positioning devices and other sensors, researchers studied the driving habits of 42 newly licensed 16- and 17-year-old drivers and 167 adults with more experience. The machines recorded incidents of cellphone use, reaching for objects, sending text messages, adjusting radios and controls, and eating and drinking.

Eating while driving almost tripled the risk of a crash, while texting or looking at something on the side of the road nearly quadrupled that risk.

Distraction is dangerous.

Think of it this way. You’re in a rolling hunk of metal traveling down the road at a high rate of speed. This hunk of metal and plastic now has massive inertia and it’s held to the road by only four small pieces of rotating rubber. That’s it.

If you want to understand inertia, try holding a small weight in your hand and then spinning around. You’ll feel the weight pulling away from your spinning body. Now try to quickly stop spinning, or pull the weight straight up.

That fight against what you’re trying to do? That’s inertia. That’s inertia from a small weight and powered only by your spinning body.

Imagine tons of metal and plastic and glass, moving many, many, many times faster than your spinning body. Changing direction or stopping isn’t so easy with that, is it?

Because of that difficulty, it’s of upmost importance that drivers stay focused on the road ahead, behind and to the side, so they can react as soon as possible and get their vehicle under control.

Getting distracted by a text or a good song on the radio is every driver’s worst enemy because it can happen at any moment and will do so without your knowledge.

According to the study, older drivers only significantly raised their risk of an accident while dialing a phone. Not only that, drivers from every age group already spend 10 percent of their driving time looking at something off the road.

“When young people engage in tasks that take their eyes away from the roadway, they’re increasing their risk dramatically,” said the lead author, Charlie Klauer, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University. “Kids need to have their eyes forward. To add any other distraction into this is really increasing the risk.”

Have a talk with your young dudes and dudettes about driving without distractions today.

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Maybe The Handwriting Isn’t On The Wall After All

Our brain must understand that each possible iteration of, say, an “a” is the same, no matter how we see it written. Being able to decipher the messiness of each “a” may be more helpful in establishing that eventual representation than seeing the same result repeatedly.

The same research also notes that there could be a difference in the brains of young learners between those who only know how to print block letters (Hello! I’m mostly one of those. Long story.) and those who learn how to write in cursive.

In dysgraphia, a condition where the ability to write is impaired, sometimes after brain injury, the deficit can take on a curious form: In some people, cursive writing remains relatively unimpaired, while in others, printing does.

In alexia, or impaired reading ability, some individuals who are unable to process print can still read cursive, and vice versa — suggesting that the two writing modes activate separate brain networks and engage more cognitive resources than would be the case with a single approach.

That might not be all that much of a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that cursive writing is disappearing as a subject being taught to the little dudes and dudettes in school. My youngest, Hyper Lad, really only had cursive for about a single year.

He had to learn the letters, try to put them together, and then was forced to write his spelling sentences in cursive each week for the rest of the year. And, really, that was it.

Now it’s years later and, because he didn’t get cursive reinforced in school and because his dad didn’t get a chance to really learn cursive his ownself, I now have to do the reading for him when it comes to cursive notes written by his oldest relatives. Annoying, but also, apparently, only the smallest of problems relating to not knowing cursive.

It turns out, the benefits of learning both handwriting and cursive will last through childhood and into adulthood. Most adults know how to type and consider it an efficient method for taking notes, certainly above using a messy handwriting. However, the very efficiency of typing could be working against adults trying to assimilate new information.

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.

All of which means . . . what?

I’m not going to say that you must emphasize handwriting in the young dudes and dudettes, but it’s looking like it might be a good idea.

Heck, even just having them handwrite the really important bits from their notes might offer a significant improvement in their ability to assimilate new information. Definitely something to think about as you sit down for your . . . erm. . . their homework come fall.

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Where’s Madame Leota When We Need Her?

The future is one of many undiscovered countries.

It’s one of those places we always wish we could see before we get there, but know we can only ever guess. The best guesses are based on taking what happened in the past and then projecting those activities forward in a logical manner. And, even then, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The worst guesses about the future involve pulling something out of your somewhere the sun don’t shine area.

I bring this up because we, as parents, are tormented by the future. We understand that whatever decision we make today, right now, is going to have possibly significant repercussions in the future.

That is, if we force our young dude to take piano lessons, will that make him hate music for the rest of his life? If we make our young dudette take an art class, will that cause her to doubt her own creativity for the rest of her life?

Admittedly, those are some rather lightweight consequences, but I’m trying to keep it light here and not get into depth about cutting off, say, an adult son who is content to do nothing, go nowhere and regards college and work as things that happen to other people.

Spooky crystal ball is spooky, but not very forthcoming regarding the future and our effects on it.Just, you know, for instance.

Young dudes and dudettes act without thought for the consequences all the time. It’s one of the more obvious definitions of being a teenager: the thought that you’re both invincible and invulnerable.

A lot of times non-parents can simply do something because they want to do it and have no thought of the future. They can do this because, to them, the future is somewhere out there. It’s not a real thing. The future is, to them, something that might happen, but . . . eh, no biggie.

To healthy, financially stable young adults, the future isn’t really real.

As parents, we know the future is as real as the diaper we just changed or the screaming fit we just endured because we took away the television and forced a young dude to go outside and play.

We see the future every night when he or she goes to bed, think about the future and worry if it’s okay while asleep, and smile at it when it wakes up in the morning all grouchy and grumpy but still the cutest thing in the world.

Parents know that the future is not stable, that it can change. This is evidenced by the way our little dudes and dudettes continually grow and become almost completely different people over the years.

The future is as real as the look on your little dude’s face.

So we parents know the future is real, but here’s the thing, the reason why I’d love to have Madame Leota (the floating head in the Haunted Mansion’s crystal ball in Walt Disney World) on retainer: We’re terrified that we’re going to screw the pooch regarding our kids’ future.

Mostly because we — all of us parents — have absolutely no idea what we’re doing.

continued tomorrow

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