Night Driving

In the final of the three stages of graduated driver licensing, there is a provisional licensing stage, which includes a nighttime driving restriction. I remember getting my license and having to wait what seemed like forever to be able to drive after dark. Maybe that’s you - maybe this article caught your eye because you are sick of being unable to drive legally past a certain hour. “I’m a good driver,” you might say to yourself. “Why should there be any limit on when I drive?”

The fact is that night driving can be really dangerous, and while it might seem like a good idea, it requires the utmost caution. Even if you are past the provisional license stage, before you choose to do an overnight or past-your-bedtime drive, you should know some things about night driving, darkness, and common supplements like caffeine that you might not already be aware of. 

  1. Darkness naturally makes you sleepier.

Fact: feeling tired when the sun goes down has more to it than your sleep schedule. If you want the long version, click here. But in short, exposure to light diminishes the release of melatonin and similar sleep-necessary hormones, while dark drives them in. Basically, your body reacts to light or lack of light by waking up or going to sleep by nature, not nurture. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t fight it - but naturally you’re fighting less during the day, or you should be.

  1. Darkness naturally makes other drivers sleepy, as well.

As if it wasn’t enough that your body is prone to more mistakes at night, so are other people’s bodies! And I promise you you’re not the only one driving tonight - so keep in mind that on some level, nobody on the road is naturally at their best. Stay extra aware, and if you can, bring another person to stay up with you and keep your mind awake.

  1. Caffeine isn’t a cure all for fatigue.

A common misconception is that sleep equals totally no awareness, and thus being awake equals awareness. In reality, correlation still does not mean causation, and this is what makes night driving especially dangerous - being an awake driver doesn’t mean you’re an aware driver. That said, caffeine isn’t a magic drug that makes you not need sleep, studies have shown. It can keep you awake, but you can be unaware as ever. 

  1. Driving at night isn’t something you “get” to do.

While you may be legally able to drive late at night soon, that never means you should. By doing so you put yourself as well as other people in harm’s way. Please do not view this ever as something to be excited about or something that you can do. Maybe a better question should be “is this something I need to do? I would be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 times, it’s not.

  1. Safety first… even when you don’t feel like it.

It should definitely be stated that safety, particularly in life-challenging cases, should come first. If you can’t make it to your destination, find a place to pull over and nap if you feel comfortable and safe doing so. However, it’d be best to just not make the drive when you’re tired in the first place - if you can, just don’t even step foot through that door.

Robert Lanterman is a freelance writer and unprofessional musician from Boise, ID. Learn about his love for Jesus, pizza, and obscure punk bands at Twitter.

Your Phone & Cognitive Processes

Chances are you have heard that texting and driving is dangerous. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that it’s banned in 41 states, many drivers still choose to text and drive. The danger with phone distraction doesn’t stop at texting though—let us consider the gamut of potentially fatal phone habits in relation to the way our brain functions.

Texting and Driving

When you’re texting and driving, you’re unable to fully focus on either task. Your brain has to operate on several different levels in order to effectively drive a car. Your visual attention needs to be on the road so that you can see turns, perceive potential problems, and determine where you’re going next. Your manual attention needs to be directed to the wheel as you control the car. Your cognitive attention needs to be on the task of driving and navigating. Unfortunately, texting interrupts all three processes: manually as your fingers work the buttons on your phone, visually as you look down at the phone, and cognitively as you think about the message instead of about your driving. This divided attention can be costly. Each time you look down to answer a text message, you take your attention off of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—even a split second is enough to get you into a potentially fatal car crash.

Talking on the Phone versus Talking to a Passenger

Texting while driving is a bad idea, but what about talking on the phone? Surely it must be safer than looking down at a text message, especially if you’re using hands-free technology...Besides, you talk to people who are in the car with you. How is that different? Talking on the phone, however, IS different, vastly different than talking to someone in the car. Mainly, the person in the car with you is aware of what’s going on. That person automatically allow for the ebb and flow in conversation that’s natural as you navigate intersections, change lanes, and avoid obstacles. The person on the other end of the phone, however, has no such map of what’s happening in your car. As a result, they may start talking at just the wrong moment, distracting you when your attention most needs to be on the road. Everyone is impacted by the cognitive distraction of talking on a cell phone while driving. Your brain isn’t as good at juggling tasks as you’d like to believe. When you’re focused on too many things at once, it creates a bottleneck effect that can make it difficult for you to process what’s going on around you or dangerously slow your reaction time at just the wrong moment. 

No Shortcuts; Safe Driving is a Choice 

Many drivers believe that hands-free devices and talk-to-text programs to increase their safety behind the wheel and make it easier to keep their attention on what they’re doing. Unfortunately, these hands-free devices also dramatically decrease your ability to cognitively focus on the road.

Even just hearing your phone is a distraction, so develop the habit of turning your phone off or shifting it to silent mode when you get behind the wheel of the car.

As much as you’d like to be connected to your friends and family wherever you go, using your cell phone behind the wheel in any capacity is simply not worth the risks. By making the choice to drive distracted, you risk not only your own life and those in the car with you, but also everyone else on the road with you. Commit to driving distraction-free today.

Fay Niselbaum

Fay Niselbaum is a content specialist at The Law Office of Zev Goldstein, a NY speeding ticket lawyer. Fay loves cooking, blogging, and spending time with her family.

 

 

Top 5 Excuses for Using Your Smartphone While Driving

I recently came upon this article about preventing car crashes (written by a personal injury expertise who sees this kind of thing all the time), and it got me thinking about how easy it is to just be a safe driver. A lot of it comes down to a little patience - to wait until you get to your destination to do something that otherwise there would be less risk for. But we always find ourselves making excuses. Here are the top 5 excuses you and I probably use on a regular basis for texting, tweeting, reading - smartphone activities etc., and why they are completely invalid

1)    “I had to send it now!”

If you really need to send a text “now,” you should have no problem finding a safe place to pull over. In 2013, there were 445 fatalities from cell phone-distraction driving, and if that doesn’t seem like a lot, add that onto the whopping 34,000 injuries from the same conditions. That’s a huge number of people hurt by this. Take a short minute or two to pull over, or wait until you reach your destination.

2)    “Don’t worry! I’m good at it!”

I’ve heard this a lot, but both psychologically and scientifically, nobody is actually a properly focused driver while texting – 37% of your brain activity is now focused on texting when it should be on the primary task of driving.

3)    “I can text without looking!”

The visual distraction is only one part of the equation – texting is a cognitive distraction as well. This means that your focus is not completely on driving – making your response time slower and lessening your awareness of your surroundings. Nor does it make a difference for how long it takes you to send said text, as a recent study by AAA found that mental distractions can last up to 27 seconds after a distraction has tangibly taken place! That is an extremely long time to not be focused while driving, and is, again, simply putting too much at risk.

4)    “I was at a stoplight!”

A RightTurn.com blogger put it best when she wrote “When I see other drivers on their phone roll through a stop sign... [it makes me] glad [that I don’t use my cell phone while driving].” Yes, you may be stopped but you still need to be aware of what’s going on around you. Unaware driving has led to me going through a stop light as well. Even if you’re fully stopped, you could be not looking and somebody starts backing up due to an action by the cars in front of them (which I have seen happen first hand), you could get rear ended and crash could occur. Similarly, other people run lights, so stay attentive, no matter how boring it might seem or how important that next tweet feels.

5)    “There was nobody around!”

I have literally been backed into by somebody at 3 am on a highway when nobody else was on the road. They just stopped for a second, weren’t paying attention, assumed nobody was around because of the time and they were (I guess) ignoring their mirrors. You never know when a person or other may jump out, or something unusual like this may happen. I live in Idaho, and deer can pop up pretty much anywhere. The last thing I want to do, not just for the deer but for my car, is hit one due to my negligence while texting. Don’t expect that unexpected things can’t happen - keep any eye out. It could save a life.

 

Robert Lanterman is a freelance writer and unprofessional musician from Boise, ID. Learn about his love for Jesus, pizza, and obscure punk bands at Twitter.

3 Reasons Why Parents Need to Talk to Teens About Safe Driving Teen fatalities from car accidents tend to rise in the summer.

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Young people involved in a car crash

Parents should model safe driving behavior to their kids from a young age, one father says.

By June 29, 2015 | 8:00 a.m. EDT+ More
150626_sydneewilliams
Sydnee Williams died at the age of 17 in a car crash after using her phone behind the wheel.

Teens have more time for adventures when high school is out for the summer, but these escapades can often turn deadly when they're driving.

Ohio dad Brock Dietrich knows this all too well. His 17-year-old daughter, Sydnee Williams, died in a 2013 car crash after using her phone behind the wheel.

"She was not wearing her seat belt either, and so as a result, she was thrown from the vehicle and suffered fatal head trauma," says Dietrich. He now works with the nonprofit organization Impact Teen Drivers to educate teens and parents on the dangers of driving while distracted and safe driving practices.

 Parents should keep the following facts in mind when talking to their teen about safe driving.

1. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens. Plus, the number of teen crash fatalities tends to rise during the summer months, according to a AAA analysis.

These accidents are often preventable. Parents can help by modeling appropriate behavior​, such as by turning off or silencing cellphones prior to driving, and by discussing ​what safe driving looks like, says Dietrich. These actions should begin at an early age and continue once a teen is licensed.

"I have the regret of, I didn't do a good enough job of modeling that normal, good driving behavior for Sydnee," says Dietrich. "I live with the guilt that she learned some of the behaviors from watching me."

[Read about how teens learn texting while driving from parents.]

The National Safety Council and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration​ offer online resources for parents of teen drivers.

2. Often people other than the teen driver get injured or killedAnd all states have graduated driver licensing laws, which can include restrictions on passengers for teen drivers.

Dietrich had rules for his daughter that were stricter than laws in his state, he says. The night of the crash, she was only allowed to have one​ passenger in the car, but actually had two. ​ 

"There's lots of rules thrown at teenagers," he says. Teens need an explanation as to why those rules are important – something he says he didn't provide to his daughter – or else they will rebel, he says​.

3. About half of teens who died in car accidents weren't wearing a seat belt. Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use, despite the fact they cut crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, ​according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.​ ​

One passenger in Sydnee's car was wearing a seat belt appropriately and walked away from the crash ​physically uninjured, Dietrich says. The other passenger was wearing a seat belt too, but she ​placed the shoulder harness behind her back and suffered ​serious injuries​.

Dietrich says the passengers told him that on the night of the crash, Sydnee – who typically wore her seat belt – was wearing it early in the evening, ​​but forgot to put it on the last time she got in the car.

"They let what's going on at the time when they get in the car distract them from what they really need to do," he says. Teens need to make a habit of making sure everyone is wearing a seat belt each time they hit the road. 

Distractions are often a factor in teen crashes.

[Get tips to steer your teen into the right online driver's ed class.]

"It's not that the teens are intentionally going out there attempting to be reckless," Dietrich says.

He believes that cellphones, for example, have become so ingrained in our culture that when a phone rings, people don't even think before they respond. When someone gets in a car, it's just their natural reaction to look at their phones when they get an alert. Teens may see adults displaying this behavior and think it's OK​.​
  
"It comes down to not lecturing to them, but providing the teens with the information to encourage them to make the right decisions when they are in the car," he says. 

Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at highschoolnotes@usnews.com.

Sharing The Road This Summer

Sunny summer days are the perfect time to get out of the house, but as you are driving to your destination, it is important to be especially aware of your surroundings. The warm weather means you will be sharing the road with many more people, including pedestrians, cyclists, construction crews and children playing outside. Use these tips to help keep yourself and the people around you safe as you are driving this summer:

Be extra careful when backing out of driveways

It is critical to always pay attention to people around you, especially children, as you are backing out of a driveway or parking space. Every year, over 2,000 children are backed over by vehicles — and approximately 100 of these children die from their injuries.

Before getting into your vehicle, look around to see if there are pedestrians nearby, especially people walking toward you. If you see kids, watch for them as you are getting ready to back up so you can make sure they do not run behind your vehicle. If you have a rearview camera, use it while also looking to the sides to help you see people who might be moving into the space behind your vehicle. Back up slowly, and stop immediately if you see anything behind you, whether it's a person, a ball or just a flash of motion.

Keep your eyes on the road

Looking away from the road for just a few seconds can be more than enough time to get in a crash. Commit to not looking at distractions while you are driving this summer by following a few basic rules:

  • Put your phone away before starting the car. Texting, checking social media and making phone calls can wait until you reach your destination.
  • Put on your seatbelt, adjust your mirrors, and turn on music before you put your car into gear. Each of these tasks can distract you from your surroundings if you attempt them while driving.
  • Don't let your eyes linger too long on distractions while you are driving. Whether it's an attractive person, funny billboard, or interesting store, limit yourself to just a glance while your car is moving.

 Give cyclists space

With warm weather, you’ll find more bicyclists and motorcyclists. These smaller vehicles share the road with you, and it's your responsibility to watch out for them and give them the space they need:

  • Allow more following distance than usual when you are behind a two-wheeled vehicle. They can stop faster than you can, and collisions are very dangerous for them.
  • Look carefully to your right before moving into a turn lane or turning right. Use your side mirror, and glance over your shoulder to check your blind spot.
  • Check for cyclists before opening your door after parking. Your door will typically open into a bike lane, and a cyclist can be seriously injured by riding into a door.

Scan the road in construction zones

Construction crews work on the roads more during the summer than in other seasons, so watch for signs telling you about roadwork. Observe the posted speed limit and constantly scan the road, looking in different places for people, equipment or debris that might be in your path.

In addition to these tips, it's important to pay attention whenever you are driving this summer. You might need to turn down the music and limit conversations with friends in the car so you can focus on the road and keep yourself and others safe (and always follow the laws of the Graduated Driver Licensing).

 

Natalie Saldana is the Southwest Vice President of Sales for Estrella Insurance.  Natalie was promoted from Assistant Vice President to Vice President of Sales in December of 2013.

 

Teen drivers feel impact of safety workshop

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It would probably surprise a lot of people to find out that 75 percent of teens killed in traffic accidents are not the result of alcohol or drugs. Distracted driving kills over 4,000 teens and injures another 400,000 annually.

That's the message Zoe Schuler, of Impact Teen Drivers, drove home to hundreds of Righetti High School students and their parents during a series of presentations Wednesday.

"We focus on distractions," Schuler said. "We try to get them to understand it could happen to them, but it really doesn't have to."

"It" didn't have to happen to Sydnee Williams, either. The Ohio teen died in a car crash in 2013 just shy of her 18th birthday. She was driving distracted and not using her seat belt. While one of her passengers walked away from the single-car accident and another was seriously injured but survived, Williams died after being ejected from her car.

Now, her story is told to thousands of teen drivers through the Impact Teen Drivers program and her father, Brock Dietrich, is among the most outspoken critics of distracted driving.

Most teens know the dangers.

According to a survey by the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, 87 percent of teen respondents said they know it is dangerous to text while driving, but 18 percent added they still use their phones to talk and text while driving.

Schuler said it's not just cellphones that create those distractions. Loud music, rowdy passengers and their electronic devices and reckless driving also play into the accident statistics.

"This assembly really brought to my awareness how dangerous driving and texting can be. And how it can affect other people and not just myself," said 17-year-old Mitchell Silva. "I got my license right after I turned 16. Everyone is always excited when they do that.

"It helped me realize that I need to tell somebody when they're driving dangerously to protect myself."

The Impact Teen Drivers program featured a Parent-Teens Workshop on Wednesday evening that educated parents about their children's driving safety.

California Highway Patrol Officer Matt Kenney and Santa Maria Police Officer Ron Murillo provided information about the state's Graduated Driver's License laws and provisional licenses. All 50 states have adopted some form of graduated driver's licenses, which include restrictions to teens' driving rights.

Provisional licenses restrict new drivers from having passengers under 20 years old unless a licensed driver 25 or older is in the car. It also prohibits new drivers from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they are accompanied by someone 25 or older.

Schuler told the students the laws make a lot of sense and are written to protect them.

"It's just like when you learn to swim. Hopefully, your parents don't throw you in the English Channel and say, 'swim,'" she joked. "You graduate from wading to using floaties to swimming." 

Brian Bullock bbullock@leecentralcoastnews.com

#1 Killer of Teens is No LOL Matter: Drivers Need to TTYL

COLUMBUS, OH. - What Do You Consider Lethal? For most of us, the first things that come to mind are diseases, natural disasters, or weapon-wielding criminals. During National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, however, State Farm®, Impact Teen Drivers, and FCCLA teen leaders will work together to emphasize what is most deadly to teen drivers reckless and distracted driving. Moreover, teens will learn that their number one killer is 100% preventable, if drivers and passengers make good decisions.

“People are starting to understand that everyday behaviors, such as texting, eating, applying make-up, or reaching for something, can be lethal when done behind the wheel,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers. “In a recent study, over 98 percent of people reported that texting behind the wheel is dangerous, but 75 percent still report doing it. The propensity for people to rationalize distracted driving behavior—the ‘not me’ mentality—is a big part of the problem.

The most devastating experience a parent can face is the loss of a child, especially in a 100% preventable car crash,” said Brock Dietrich, father to Sydnee, a young woman who lost her life in a texting and driving crash. “Parents don’t realize we are the number one influencer of our child’s driving attitudes and behaviors. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ didn’t work for us and it doesn’t work for our kids. As parents we need to role model the behaviors we want our kids to have behind the wheelbuckle up, put the phones away, and drive the speed limit. No family wants to be part of the club that my family and I are now part ofwe lost our daughter and there is a permanent hole in our hearts.”

Research clearly shows that it is the cognitive distraction, not the manual distraction that presents the greatest risk behind the wheel. “We overestimate our abilities to multitask behind the wheel—the reality is our brain is not set up to do multiple tasks at once and do them well,” said Kim Lust, State Farm Public Affairs Community Specialist. A moment of distraction behind the wheeleven one timecan have devastating consequences. At State Farm it is our goal to make our kids and communities safer, we are proud to support this very important event today. Teen leaders speaking up are a significant part of the key to making our roads and communities safer.

Teen safe driving is a top priority for State Farm. State Farm is dedicated to supporting community and school based programs throughout Ohio. State Farm is proud to work with Impact Teen Drivers and the FCCLA to bring youth leaders from across the state together working to stop the number one killer of teens in Ohio—reckless and distracted driving. State Farm’s website has comprehensive free tools, tips, and resources designed to help teens and their parents throughout the learning-to-drive process,” said Kim Lust.

Impact Teen Drivers uses a multifaceted approach to educate teens and communities about the dangers of reckless and distracted driving. Through the What Do You Consider Lethal? program, teens are engaged and empowered to make good decisions behind the wheel and spread the safe driving message to their peers. In Parent-Teen Workshops, parents are taught that they are the primary influencer of their teen’s driving attitudes and behaviors—and that “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. Using a Train-the-Trainers approach, Impact Teen Drivers educates first responders, the consequences of distracted driving, but also empowers them to lead by example and spread the safe driving message.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. 

Click here to download the press release.

 

Texting and Driving Not Just a Teen Issue

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Special community event at Miramonte focuses on distracted driving March 5

"Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded." - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The danger of distracted driving became all too clear one day in April 2014 when an Orinda father of two young children was seriously injured by a car driven by a local teen. The teen, also an Orindan, was allegedly texting while driving on San Pablo Dam Road near Wagner Ranch Elementary School. The injured man is still working on his recovery.

Viewing that accident as a wake-up call, Orinda Traffic Safety Advisory Committee members David Libby and Mark Roberts advised the Orinda City Council Feb. 17 that they've been talking with other Orindans about ways to prevent similar accidents from ever happening again. 

The end result is "Impact Teen Drivers," an educational event for the entire community that will be held at 7 p.m. March 5 in the Miramonte High School auditorium. Funded by the state's Office of Traffic Safety and the California Highway Patrol, it also has the backing of the California Teachers Association.

"We're really happy to be able to partner with the city on this," says Miramonte High School Principal Julie Parks. Although MHS already has a program that addresses the dangers of drinking and driving, she believes that it isn't comprehensive enough. Texting is so ingrained for so many teens and adults now that not responding to a text message is perceived as a faux pas - a belief that often leads to risky behaviors. In recent studies, 20 to 25 percent of teens admitted that they respond to text messages every time they drive.

"We sent a team of students to watch one of the Impacts events," says Parks. They gave the program solid marks, but felt that adults also really needed to hear the information. So it was changed from a daytime assembly to an evening program for the general public. "Distracted driving affects everyone - whether you're a driver or not," she observes. "This truly is a community-wide issue."

Laurie Snyder, laurie@lamorindaweekly.com

Santa Maria Police, CHP Offer Traffic Safety Workshop For Teens

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SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Cooper Lock and his two friends spent their Thursday afternoon at the Santa Maria Library participating in a safe driving workshop.

“A lot of these wake-up calls are important,” Cooper said. “It shows you how you can actually be safe and pay attention.”

The workshop offered strategies to teens on how they can be more safe on the roads by highlighting facts and myths of laws pertaining to teen drivers.

Henry Switala said the stories shown in a video presentation of teens in California who had been in fatal accidents made him think, “Wow, this happened here. This can happen to me.”

Driver safety experts said teen drivers are at the highest risk of being involved in traffic collisions.

Kelly Browning, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers, a nonprofit organization that helped put on the workshop, told KCOY/KEYT's Cory James that distracted driving is the No. 1 reason behind teen crashes.

Browning said that in addition to teens practicing safe driving skills, parents need to be better role models because “kids have been sitting back watching everything (they) do” in the car for years.

Sgt. Mark Streker of the Santa Maria Police Department said the traffic bureau and the California Highway Patrol sponsored the event to educate and empower young drivers.

“We want kids to know they can make their own choices,” Streker said. “It may not be a popular choice, but we want our teens to know you can make the choice to say no, (to) say stop (and to) say let me get out.”

Cory James, coryjames@kcoy.com 

Gonzalo's Story

Gonzalo Aranguiz’s family left Santiago, Chile, to come to California for a better life. They worked hard, as a team, supporting one another in all that they did, and motivating each other to work harder. Gonzalo took on lots of responsibility—he wanted to. He wanted to do anything he could to help make their lives easier on a daily basis, as well as work towards transforming their future.

Not speaking one word of English when he first moved to the states, Gonzalo’s dedication to his studies eventually paid off; he was accepted to one of the best engineering universities on the West Coast. Understanding the significance of this acceptance, the family made the decision to sell the house, sacrificing their own comfort to pay for Gonzalo and his brothers to get the best possible education. Everything they did was for the good of the family, so when Gonzalo began learning to drive, it was with the expectation that this too would improve their overall quality of life. Little by little, his dad taught him the rules of the road, and soon enough, he was driving his mom to and from work, and his brothers to and from school.

 On February 28th, 2013, Gonzalo was heading to work after his morning class, his mind buzzing with everything on the day’s agenda. He wasn’t late so he wasn’t rushing—he was just a little distracted. He picked up his phone to change the music, but it slipped out of his hand. Instinctively, he reached to pick it up with one hand while keeping the other on the wheel. With his eyes now off the road, though, he jerked the wheel. The car veered slightly, and suddenly Gonzalo felt an impact.

It does not matter how innocuous an act may seem, in the context of driving it can quickly become lethal. Gonzalo made the choice to first grab for his phone to try to change the music, and then to reach for it once it had fallen. Because of these simple decisions, he failed to see the cyclist, swerved slightly and hit and killed Ivan.

Gonzalo will live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he hurt Ivan’s family in the worst way imaginable; he killed Ivan. Ivan was robbed of his future, and his parents were left to bury his body and live only with his memory.

Gonzalo’s story acts as the ultimate reminder about how quickly the car can become a weapon if we do not invest 100% of our attention to the task of driving. It does not matter whether you are a compassionate person who would never intentionally hurt someone else, because the reality is that it is the outcome of driving distracted, not the intention, that causes the lasting pain. 

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