Tag Archives: Distractions

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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Time Management, Or The Hour That Got Away

Who knew Breaking Bad was so good?

Okay, sure, fine. Everyone, all right. Everyone knew that Breaking Bad, the award-winning story of a high-school chemistry teacher and his descent/ascent into the life of a big-time meth king was a tremendous show.

I’d heard about it, but never checked it out. Until I decided, one boring weekend afternoon, to give it a try. I was instantly hooked on the characters, the situations and, well, just about everything. Yes, I understand that, for a show revolving around addiction, that statement has a great deal of possibly unintended irony. It still stands.

So I started watching. And watching. And the next thing I knew I was finished with the seven-episode first season and was ready for more. The only problem was that the afternoon was gone and evening had taken a runner. Time, you see, had slipped away while I was watching this.

It’s something I began thinking about again when I was talking to both Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad. Both are studying hard at their respective schools, University of North Carolina Wilmington and a Falcon High. Both have time-management needs that must be fulfilled if they’re to do a good job in school.

The difference is that Zippy the College Boy is doing it on his own, while Hyper Lad has help. That is, his parents are likely to come around and thump the back of his head if he’s goofing off and not using his time wisely. Well, perhaps not wisely, but at least well.

Zippy the College Boy is out on his own and, knowing him as I do, is not using his time either wisely or well. He’s a smart kid, who learned well during high school, both his academic lessons as well as the things that his teachers had to say about how best to study. The problem is there are far too many distractions for college students, especially for those with ADD and/or a learning disability.

Time, for people with those disorders, is much different. They, even more than most people, can get involved in something and never notice the passing of time. Even if it’s studying, that’s probably not a good thing, because there is more to study than only one subject or one part of a subject.

Despite my words of encouragement on the subject, Zippy the College Boy still relies on his internal clock and a sense of when things are due for his time-management skills. I understand. I was the same way in college and for most of my life after.

However, I’ve come to understand that I’m a lot more like Zippy the College Boy, Sarcasmo and Hyper Lad than I had thought. I get caught up in things as well, and not just episodes of compelling television like Breaking Bad. I’ll start writing and never even notice four hours go past and I’ve still got work to do other than the writing.

Enter the futurephone. I’ve become somewhat reliant on the thing. I will look at my list of to-do items for the day and decide how much time needs to be devoted to each item. Then, when I’m starting that item, I’ll set the alarm on the futurephone to that number of hours or minutes and work until the alarm goes off. I also use the calendar app to schedule when things are due. I’ll set up a repeating schedule to make sure I’m continuing to work on things with plenty of time left before deadline so I’m not caught in a crunch.

I tried to work on those things with Zippy the College Boy and Sarcasmo, but the whole futurephone thing came along too late for those dudes. Not so with Hyper Lad.

He’s the one on whom I’m really experimenting with using the futurephone for more than games. So far, I think it’s working. We’ve still got work to do, especially considering that he got homework detention for not turning something in during the second week of school. Still, it’s good to have a path laid out ahead of him.

Now we only have to make sure he stays on the path.

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Hands In The Air: This Is A Sleep Up!

Dudes and dudettes need sleep.

I know this isn’t a big revelation or anything here, but it’s important that we establish this baseline. We do need sleep. And probably a lot more of it than we’re willing to give ourselves.

Research shows that most people require seven or eight hours of sleep to function optimally. Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life. From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, among others, a number of bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep: the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function.

See? I told you so. Not that I want to get all high and mighty here, dudes. Because, after all, I’m probably one of the worst offenders, let me tell you. I get up around 0645 every morning, or at least every weekday morning when I was working at Awesome Elementary School. Unfortunately, I rarely got to bed before midnight the night before. Add in time spent falling asleep and, there you go, I’m down in the 6.5-hour range.

And I know I need more than that.

When I started reading that list of organ systems that could be adversely affected by a lack of sleep in a Personal Health column by Jane E. Brody in The New York Times, I started feeling it all. Each and every single symptom. All at once. Dizzying, I tell you. Or was that one of the symptoms?

Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among people with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Anne Germain, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. People with PTSD tend to relive their trauma when they try to sleep, which keeps their brains in a heightened state of alertness.

Dr. Germain is studying what happens in the brains of sleeping veterans with PTSD in hopes of developing more effective treatments for them and for people with lesser degrees of stress that interfere with a good night’s sleep.

I’m pretty sure you don’t have to have PTSD to make horrible sleep a risk factor for substance abuse and depression. I can tell you, and I’m sure you know if you’ve ever slept as badly as I tend to do, I feel horrible the next day. And, when you consistently feel horrible, that’s a pretty good recipe for being depressed about your situation.

So what’s the solution?

Seriously? You had to ask?

It’s get more sleep. Even though that might be hard, it’s the best recommendation you can have for increasing your health and making you feel better.

Timothy H. Monk, who directs the Human Chronobiology Research Program at Western Psychiatric . . .  is finding that many are helped by standard behavioral treatments for insomnia, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding late-in-day naps and caffeine, and reducing distractions from light, noise and pets.

See that? Don’t nap late in the day. Stay away from caffeine during the afternoon and sleep in a (metaphorical) cave, far from noise and pets.

Easy enough to say. Now we’ve just got to get it done.

See you dudes on the other side.

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