Opinion: Behind-the-wheel instructor offers views on distracted driving

(Editor’s note: The following was written by a woman who has been a driver’s training instructor for more than seven years on some of the concerns she has picked up in that time.)
When I first started out driving, I didn’t see much distracted driving. But I have seen many changes in the last five years while working as a driver’s education instructor.
Perhaps I have noticed more distracted behaviors because I have become more vigilant in observing people’s behaviors. I use the driving errors and distractions I see people doing as tools to teach.
Besides teaching basic driving maneuvers to become safe and courteous drivers, I also think it is vital to point out to my students the risks I see others taking while they drive. I explain the possible consequences and outcomes of their actions. Maybe I have seen you, and used you as an example of “what not to do while driving.”
In the course of my profession, I have become a much better driver. I really do “practice what I preach.”
I didn’t start out being a defensive and courteous driver. I had many of the same habits that you may have. In the past, I have been guilty of texting and talking on my cell while driving, eating and driving, listening to the radio too loud, trying to find just the “right song” on my iPod, and a few other things that I am not willing to admit.
I have been able to use these past experiences to tell personal stories to the students I teach in the classroom. This opens up an opportunity for discussion. I often ask students to share their stories as well.
Every time I teach a class, I ask the students if their parents text and drive. On average, half of the hands go up. I also ask if they knowingly have had to be a passenger when their parents had been drinking. I consistently have hands raised on that question.
Subsequently, I ask if they know someone who has had a DWI and roughly one-third of the class raise their hands.
Believe it or not, your kids have been watching and learning from you for a very long time! They are learning their driving habits from you. Statistically, they will drive like you, picking up your good and bad driving habits along the way.
As a “Towards Zero Death” coalition member, I ask that you set a good example. This responsibility to drive defensively and safe is everyone’s. It is not too late to start. For all of you that drive, put down the cell phone, the maps, books, make-up, gadgets and anything else that distracts you while you are driving. — Kelly Springer, Zimmerman

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