Distracted driving: The one-second safety lesson

When we’re behind the wheel, our attention should be focused on our driving, not on a glowing rectangular screen

A car travelling at 25 miles per hour covers how many feet in one second? I didn’t know either, so I had to do the math — and I loathe doing math — to find that the answer is 36.666 feet.

Now, how long does it take for you to glance down at your MDT — or your mobile phone — to read a message?

Yeah... about a second.

Upon completion of the Below 100 train-the-trainer seminar at ILEETA 2012, I was empowered with a variety of training materials. Among the videos and images and statistics was this picture, which also carried the message “No matter what the vehicle code says, you’re not exempt from the laws of physics.”
Upon completion of the Below 100 train-the-trainer seminar at ILEETA 2012, I was empowered with a variety of training materials. Among the videos and images and statistics was this picture, which also carried the message “No matter what the vehicle code says, you’re not exempt from the laws of physics.”

Life’s Most Important Question
I’ve learned from my good friend and PoliceOne colleague Brian Willis that Life’s Most Important Question is — without a shadow of a doubt — “What’s Important Now?”

When we’re behind the wheel, the answer to the question “What’s Important Now?” is putting our attention into our driving, not into a glowing rectangular screen.

Way back in 2008 I wrote that until such time as we get heads-up displays in patrol cars, it’s probably a good practice to do your very best to only glance at the MDT when stopped at a traffic light or pulled to the side of the road.

As I wrote back then, it is wishful thinking on an unprecedented scale to say that cops will ignore the MDT when they’re behind the wheel, but if we reduce the number of times it distracts you from the road, we can also probably reduce the number of collisions caused by such distractions.

Even when you’re stopped, you’re technically still driving — you’re not in motion but you’re on the road, behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle with the motor running — and therefore “What’s Important Now?” is keeping your focus on that task.

“What’s Important Now?” is decidedly not typing out “LOL” or some other equally-meaningless message.

Mainstream Media Getting it Right?
The mainstream press doesn’t often get my praise, but last night, the NBC Nightly News put the focus of the “distracted driving” debate squarely on police officers. And in so doing, they got it right.

Check out the video and pick up the remainder of today’s column below. 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lots of Video Resources
A little more than a year ago, I posted a tip about this video which had been distributed by AT&T in an effort to reduce the number of their customers being killed by driving while texting on AT&T devices. 

That video is still as sobering and salient today as it was when we first saw it.

Go ahead and check it out.

Furthermore, just last week the Fort Worth Police Department produced a PSA warning civilians to keep their eyes on the road when driving.

Driving on a closed course and using a little bit of police humor to get their point across, they correctly stated that a driver is around 23 times more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than a driver who is not distracted from the task of driving.

There are lots of other video resources readily available to you. I encourage you to use them.

Looking for Teaching Moments
Back, briefly, to my friend Brian Willis.

Brian happens to be one of the people responsible for creating the Below 100 program. During ILEETA 2012 a few months back, I was given the tremendous opportunity to attend a train-the-trainer seminar for the Below 100 program.

I won’t get into details on the program for which I’m now a certified instructor — you can read about that here — but in addition to having had positive reinforcement from Willis on “What’s Important Now,” the Below 100 program offered the reminder that there are ‘teachable moments’ hiding in some of the unlikeliest places.

You just have to be on the lookout for them.

During that Below 100 train-the-trainer seminar at ILEETA 2012, Travis Yates spoke passionately about the conversation in which he was first told he was driving dangerously too fast.

He was “pissed” at that conversation, but in the end he learned from it, and today Travis is one of the world’s leading experts on safety behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle.

Like Willis, Yates is a founding forefather of the Below 100 program.

He is also a personal friend of yours truly, and a PoliceOne Columnist.

You seeing a trend here?

The One-Second Safety Lesson
The NBC Nightly News is, apparently, the latest example of places in which you might find a training tool to use with your troops at your next lineup. I never expected to feature a segment from that news program in a column on PoliceOne, but here we are.

Before we get out of here, let’s go back to our math equation. If at 25 miles per hour (MPH) you cover 36 feet in a second (FPS), how much more ground do you traverse in a single second if you’re going 35 miles per hour?  What about 45, 55, and 65? 

The answers — mathematically speaking — are 51.3 FPS at a speed of 35 MPH, 66 FPS going at 45 MPH, 80.6 FPS moving at 55MPH, and 95.3 FPS when you are trucking along at 65 MPH.

The other answer is: It doesn’t [bleeping] matter.

The answer is to always be paying proper attention to what’s happening in front of (and around) us — not on a glowing rectangular screen — no matter what speed we’re driving.

Like anything else I write in this space — from tips to columns to commentary — this stuff is here for you to use at will as teaching tools. You need not ask my permission (although I do love hearing from PoliceOne Members and have become “pen pals” with many of you this way).

You need only to see the opportunity to pass along some information to a fellow-LEO that may one day save their life of the life of another person... somewhere down the road

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, providing police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, and has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips. Doug hosts the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, and is the host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Contact Doug Wyllie

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