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The five seconds that could kill anybody

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Last year John suffered a brain injury that makes him go into a daze for about five seconds at any random moment.

He was ready when it came time to renew his driver's license, but Senior Master Sgt. Jim Cole, John's son and our base's safety NCO in charge, knew he couldn't allow it. Five seconds of distracted driving was too dangerous.

John was upset. He believed he could still drive safely. He didn't understand the risk.

"I had to make the decision for him," Jim said. "I had to finally tell him even though I loved him, for his safety and the safety of others on the road he wouldn't be allowed to drive. It was a rough day and a painful conversation."

Would you agree that John's five-second daze was too dangerous of a gamble behind the wheel? A 2009 study by DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined that five seconds of distracted driving would be the equivalent of driving down an entire football field at 55 mph. blindfolded. So, yes, I wouldn't let John drive distracted either.

Nevertheless, I've done worse, and maybe you have as well.

That same study also discovered that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of five seconds when texting and driving. That's five seconds of distracted driving in which drivers lose focus behind the wheel, just like John. Those seconds have consequences. says that unfocused drivers injured 431,000 people in 2014. An additional 3,179 were killed. What if your friend or family member was one of them? What if you were the one texting and driving?

I've texted while driving. Maybe you have, too. Perhaps we felt like it wasn't a big deal, that we were still in control - just like John felt. He didn't have the choice to not be distracted, though. We do, every time we get behind the wheel with our cellphones.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.)