Our View: Pay attention when behind the wheel

DKS Editors

Safety tips from the Ohio Department of Transportation

Always wear your seatbelt.

Never drink alcohol and drive.

Avoid distractions while driving, including using cell phones and other electronic devices.

Slow down and look carefully at surrounding traffic when approaching driveways, intersections and parking lots.

Keep safe distance from the car ahead.

Shop during non-peak hours.

4.6 seconds.

That’s how long a driver’s eyes are off the road when sending or receiving a text message. That’s also how long it would take to drive the length of a football field, blind, at 55 miles per hour.

While Black Friday may have kicked off the holiday shopping season, it also signaled the beginning of distracted drivers’ season. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, in 2011, holiday crashes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day went up 24 percent.

These accidents can be traced to a number of causes, from misjudging the speed of oncoming traffic during a turn to unsafe, distracted driving. But at a time when 78 percent of college students admit to some form of distracted driving — talking on the phone, texting or using hands-free devices — we ask for a second thought before participating in these deadly practices, especially in light of the increasingly risky holiday season.

The Pew Research Center has shown 40 percent of American teens say they have been in a car while its driver endangered his or her passengers with distracted cell phone use. And another study, this one from Carnegie Mellon, showed using a cell phone while driving decreases the brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.

Drivers need to pay attention, but that doesn’t mean between text messages or phone calls or with 63 percent of their brains. That means all the time.