Our Northwest

Cell phones not sole distraction in crashes

Thursday, February 27, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Avoid distracted drivingCritics blame cell phones for countless distracted-driving crashes. Yet scorn can be spread among many causes.
   PEMCO claims adjusters tell me that spilled food is an old, familiar problem: Driver bites gooey burger. Ketchup oozes, plops onto shirt. Startled driver looks down, reaches for tissue, dabs at shirt and – BAM. Rear-end collision.
  "Driver reaching for item" is a common culprit. A dropped CD, purse on the floor, wallet in the glove box, water bottle on the back seat … when we reach for them, we’re distracted and tend to veer out of our lane.
   My dad was the victim of another type of distraction. Driving from Portland to Seattle in 1967, he was between Chehalis and Centralia on I-5 when up ahead deer suddenly trotted onto the pavement. Dad braked hard, and his ’65 Impala Super Sport (above) slowed to perhaps 10 mph when his rear-view mirror grabbed his attention.
Distracted bus driver   Bearing down at 70 mph was a Greyhound bus dad had passed a few miles back. Its driver wasn’t watching the road – he was looking in his own rear-view mirror at a boisterous passenger.
   The bus smashed into dad’s car, crushing it and shooting it across the median into the southbound lanes. Luckily dad survived, but with serious injuries.
   The bus driver’s distraction was not unlike what drivers might face every day. Parents get distracted by noisy kids in the back seat. Unrestrained pets crawl over laps and legs. Roadside constructions draws prolonged stares.
   It comes in many forms, but the risk is the same: distractions cause crashes.
   Avoid distractions, and you’ll enjoy happier motoring.

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