Tag Archives: driving

Poor Decisions Part Two

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My Jeep

My Jeep

Today I managed to slowly drive my Jeep back home. I had to pay the consequence of leaving my car outside some stranger’s house for a whole day and trekking back to it the next day because I was convinced of my ability to drive on icy roads. I left you yesterday this tale of my stupidity. Now I get to delve into why I did what I did.

Ever since I was little I wanted to grow up. Trouble was my brain had different plans. “‘The teenage brain is not just an adult brain with fewer miles on it,’ says Frances E. Jensen, a professor of neurology. ‘[…] These are people with very sharp brains, but they’re not quite sure what to do with them'” (www.harvardmagazine.com). The most recent research on adolescent brain development indicates that the human brain does not finish developing until the ages of twenty-five to thirty. The law may say that I became an adult at eighteen, but my brain is still developing the critical processes of long-term planning and judgement. Two processes I wish I had used harder before I went driving yesterday.

Brain Development

Brain Development

The brain “is only about 80 percent developed in adolescents. The largest part, the cortex, is divided into lobes that mature from back to front. The last section to connect is the frontal lobe, responsible for cognitive processes such as reasoning, planning, and judgment” (www.harvardmagazine.com). The picture to the left shows brain development from age five to twenty. At age five the red and yellow parts of the brain contain huge amounts of gray matter. While the blue and teal parts at age twenty contain less gray matter. It seems counter-intuitive that a fully developed brain has less gray matter than a five year old brain but the secret is in the connections. Think of a five year old brain as a laptop without an internet connection. A lot of information can get “downloaded” into it but it can only search the information that it has on the hard drive. Whereas a developed brain is the same laptop with an internet connection. This laptop can “google” all the information it wants until it find the best way to do something.

The fully developed brain uses the multitude of connections within it to plan and judge on correct courses of action. My brain had one experience of driving on the snow, but my mom had dozens of experiences driving on snow and ice that she could draw from. This is why she knew I would probably get stuck while I thought if I just drove slowly enough I would own the road.

Now, I have shared with you my story of thick-headedness and I have explained why my brain just was not up to speed. How does any of this information help us coach young players? The answer is because adolescent brains are “elastic” in their development their brains can develop along certain paths.

“Kids who ‘exercise’ their brains by learning to order their thoughts, understand abstract concepts, and  control their impulses are laying the neural foundations that will serve them for the rest of their lives. ‘This argues for doing a lot of things as a teenager,’ says Dr. Giedd. ‘You are hard-wiring your brain in adolescence. Do you want to hard-wire it for sports and playing music and doing mathematics–or for lying on the couch in front of the television'” (www.actforyouth.net). I spent plenty of time in front of the television as a teenager. Quite simply, if there is a TV in your house your kid will find it, but I was fortunate that my parents kept me active. Running cross-country, joining swim team, engaging in martial arts, and playing lacrosse all challenged my brain with fine-motor skills and complex problem solving.

I am the person I am today because my mind was challenged when I was younger. Now all I need to do is make sure to file my latest driving escapade in a part of my brain that I can easily access so I avoid the same mistake in the future.

Cheers,
Gordon

Don’t Text and Drive

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I am going to be completely honest here. I have driven a 3,224 pound four door 1998 Jeep Cherokee while texting. Since I started driving my Jeep there were times where I was not looking directly ahead of me. Instead I was looking down at my hand reading the lastest message of “hey how r u?” while in control of a ton and a half of metal moving anywhere from 1 to 60+ mph.

With the winter months upon us and unfavorable road conditions becoming a part of our lives I really want to drive one thought home. Eventually we will hit a patch of black ice and lose control of our vehicle. This simply cannot be helped. Eventually we will get a text message or a call. This simply cannot be helped. We cannot control unseen black ice. We can control our phones.

In “The Effects of Text Messaging on Young Novice Driver Performance” the authors state the following key findings:

  • The amount of time that drivers spent with their eyes off the road increased by up to 400% when retrieving and sending text messages.
  • The variability in lateral lane position increased by up to 70% when sending texts during the traffic light, pedestrian, and car following events.
  • The number of incorrect lane changes increased by 140% when retrieving and sending text messages. The majority of incorrect lane changes were due to drivers not seeing the signs when distracted by text messaging.
  • Ninety-five percent of participants reported that their driving performance declined when retrieving text messages

These results show what all of us who have ever looked at a text message while behind the wheel already know. You look up yell “Whoa!” and swerve back into the lane you were in because you were straddling the double yellow. Fortunately there are some options including one foolproof option that can prevent the dangers of texting and driving.

Educate Yourself

Educate Yourself

Did You Know?:

  • In 2008, almost 20 percent of all crashes in the year involved some type of distraction. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA).
  • Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured. (NHTSA)
  • The younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

Smartphone Apps

Smartphone Apps

Smartphone Apps:

The two apps above cost a monthly fee but once installed they offer interesting benefits. These apps recognize when your phone is in motion. Whenever a text message is received a message is sent back automatically stating “I am driving I’ll get back to you,” or any other message that you want to send. The New York Post wrote a story called “App Drives Message Home” which details DriveSafe.ly, and to learn ore about TextZapper read this post by Smartphone Sue “Text Zapper app stops texting and driving.”

Turn Cell Phones Off

Turn Cell Phones Off

Turn it Off:

This is the foolproof option I was talking about. In fact it is the ultimate, no holds barred, cannot be topped option for preventing distracted driving. I am going to commit from today to turn off my phone before I turn the key. I have tried to do this consistently in the past and I have failed but I cannot expect people to follow my example if I do not follow it myself.

So from now on the phone is off while in the car. No worries, I will call you back.

Note: The statistics quoted in this post were obtained from: www.distraction.gov.

Cheers,
Gordon