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Eating While Driving in Georgia Fatality: Another Distracted Driving Example

A 48-year-old Georgia woman died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash investigators blamed on eating while driving. The woman, Rhonda D. McGinnis of Cumming, Georgia, was driving along Georgia Highway 9 when her car veered across the center lane, sideswiping the vehicle in the other lane. McGinnis, who was not wearing a seat belt at the time, suffered critical injuries and was rushed to North Fulton Hospital, where medical personnel were unable to save her.

Georgia investigators who studied the crash said that McGinnis was eating a sandwich and French fries at the time of the collision, and speculated that her eating while driving contributed to the accident. They postulated that she may have looked down to pick up a bite of food and inadvertently allowed her car to drift into the next lane, causing it to crash with the other vehicle. The driver and other occupants of the other vehicle involved in the collision were all wearing seat belts, and none of them suffered serious injuries [1].

Eating While Driving Another Dangerous Example of Distracted Driving Behavior

McGinnis' death is just the latest example of many in a long line of traffic fatalities traced back to eating while driving and other distracted driving behaviors. It is tragic that this death was more than likely completely avoidable, one more than one level. First and foremost, if McGinnis had been paying more attention to the task of driving rather than devoting some of her attention to eating, the accident in all likelihood would have never happened in the first place. Add to this the fact that she was not wearing a seat belt, certainly a contributing cause of her death in the collision, and you get a full picture of the importance of paying attention and focusing on doing everything you can to minimize the risk of collision when you are behind the wheel.

Distracted driving is a constant and significant problem for drivers all across the United States. According to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was found to have been a significant cause of 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2008. According to the NHTSA, well over two million people were injured in car accidents that same year, with 22 percent of those accidents being traced back to distracted driving causes [2]. Eating while driving is a practice almost all drivers engage in from time to time, and it is just one of many distracted driving behaviors that contribute to these stunning numbers.

What are Some Other Examples of Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a general driving behavior that can manifest itself in many ways. Eating and drinking while driving is one common example of a behavior that can be associated with distracted driving. While many of us would question whether eating while driving can really qualify as a distracted driving behavior, the truth is that since it requires some of our attention that we would ordinarily devote to driving, it is indeed a source of distracted driving tendencies. Even simply having to reach down in your lap to pick up a drink or a sandwich can momentarily take your attention away from the road. Just a brief glance away from the constantly changing scene in front of you can prevent you from seeing some imminent danger and reacting in a way that helps you to avoid trouble.

Another very common and troublesome example of a distracted driving behavior is cell phone use while driving. Each year, as cell phone use becomes more and more of an integral part of our personal and professional lives, cell phone use becomes more common behind the wheel. Spending time dialing the phone or scrolling through speed dial lists to place a call, or looking at the phone to answer an incoming call, can distract us from the road in front of us. While we carry on conversations on our cell phones, some of our attention is diverted from our driving. We are especially less likely to hear things which may be clues to trouble looming, such as squealing tires or the sound of brakes failing in the car in front of us.

Texting while driving takes the distraction to a new level. Text messaging as a distracted driving behavior is a hot topic among many state and federal legislators hoping to curb this dangerous, but all-too-common, practice. But although cell phone use and texting while driving and the dangers they pose are getting a great deal of attention from local and national media, they are far from the only examples of distracted driving behaviors which can significantly impact your safety behind the wheel.

Other prominent examples include turning your head while talking to passengers in the vehicle; constantly adjusting the volume or frequency of the car radio or changing CDs; or getting dressed or doing hair or makeup while behind the wheel. All of these examples happen every day on our nation's roads. In fact, chances are you may have personally participated in one or more of these distracted driving behaviors the last time you drove to school or to work.

No listing of distracted driving behaviors is exhaustive, and there are any number of things a driver could do which could be construed as distracting them from their task of operating an automobile. As a general rule, any activity or behavior which inhibits your ability to pay full attention to your vehicle and the road ahead of you is a distracted driving behavior. To keep yourself safe on the roads, do everything you can to minimize your risk of getting involved in a car accident by eliminating distractions.

How Can You Avoid Driving While Distracted?

To avoid driving while distracted, you have to keep the task of driving at the forefront of your attention while you are behind the wheel. Your drive to work is not the appropriate time to complete reports, work on crossword puzzles or apply eye shadow. It is difficult enough to avoid accidents owing to the unpredictable behaviors of the drivers around you, as well as the additional variables presented by weather and road conditions. Adding to those elements by choosing to engage in distracted driving behaviors make the task even more difficult to manage, increasing your likelihood of getting a ticket or being caught in a collision. And that is really at the heart of this whole discussion: the acknowledgement that driving is, in fact, a task, and a very complicated one at that.

In our world, it is easy for us to think of manning our cell phones or looking up data on our netbooks as our most important duties, things we do to remain productive while we are out on the road. Most of us think of our cars as mobile offices, yet this train of thought tends to minimize the primary focus that should occupy our thoughts when we climb into the driver's seat and start our cars. Staying safe is our most important job, and distracted driving prevents us from getting that job done.

[1] Retrieved 2009-12-13.
[2] Retrieved 2009-12-13.



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