Driver distraction: Fighter pilots don’t have CD players

To the editor:

As my son nears driving age, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to teach the most important aspect of driving — situational awareness.  He is constantly chiding me for not listening to him when we are in the car and I have to explain that I am concentrating on my driving.  New drivers just don’t realize how much information is being processed while driving.

That is why they think it is okay to be on a cell phone or change the music on their IPods or even brush their hair or put on hand lotion.  By the way, those last two examples are not targeted at teens.  I observed both by adults while checking my rear view mirror at a stop light.  I check my rear view often and am very disheartened to see one out of three people on their cell phones and rarely looking forward for whatever reason.

Distraction comes in many forms.  When I was a teenager I was a passenger in a car with two others and we were coming home from a dance in Fall River.  We were on a back road and the cassette player fell off the hump between the driver and passenger seats.

As I and the driver both reached for it instinctively, the third passenger said my friend’s name to alert him and we looked up to see an oncoming car straight ahead.  My friend narrowly avoided the car but we were pretty shaken up even with no accident.  We realized, we would probably not have survived a straight on impact.  Think about it, one second of distraction, three teens, a potential tragedy, and not a single drop of alcohol involved.

So, my analogy to all the drivers out there —old and new — is that a car is a 2000-pound machine.  Piloting a large machine takes concentration and anticipation of changing conditions.  Remember, there is no CD player in the cockpit of a fighter jet — so let’s be careful out there.

Karen E. Bagley

Portsmouth

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