Friday 9 December 2016

Anatomy of a split second: how our lives can be changed for ever

* Our Road Safety Authority expert focuses on the momentary lapses that can claim or maim lives

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

A split second is all it takes for your life to be turned on its head
A split second is all it takes for your life to be turned on its head

A common theme among those I've spoken to who have been in a crash is that it happened in a split second. Their lives were turned upside down in an instant.

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One moment they were getting on with their day-to-day lives, maybe driving to a work appointment or collecting the children from school, and the next, everything changed.

At best it's just a fender bender and the inconvenience of getting the car repaired. At worst they are dealing with a life-altering injury and facing years of rehabilitation, physical and mental.

Siobhan O'Brien in our 'Crashed Lives' TV advertising campaign said it herself. "A split second, that's all it takes... a split second' and her life changed for ever.

It's such a powerful concept - one moment your life is 'normal' and the next it's turned on its head. Life is made up of split seconds. In each one we are living the consequences of our actions. They are mostly mundane, routine and predictable. But some tasks are riskier than others and if we go about these in a casual or careless manner there is a chance something may go wrong.

Driving a car is complicated and challenging. It requires all our attention. So if you are distracted from the tasks needed to control the car properly and observe what's going on, sooner or later something is going to go wrong.

Distracted driving is one of our big themes this year. It could be a factor in as many as 20-30pc of all collisions in this country. This means that driver distraction could be a contributory factor in more than 1,400 fatal and injury collisions each year.

Earlier this summer we unveiled a new campaign aimed at distracted parents. This type of distraction is the second most prevalent.

It shows a lady reflecting on her life with regret to the moment when, as a young mother, she looked back while driving, at her daughter sitting in the back seat, with tragic consequences.

However, the biggest distraction for drivers is the mobile. Despite the fact that using them when driving is killing people, rational, intelligent people continue to text, make phone calls, take selfies or update their social pages while driving.

Making a call will make you four times more likely to crash. Texting: a staggering 23 times more likely. But these stats are self evident. We all know we shouldn't use our phones at the wheel. So why do so many people flaunt their safety, the safety of others, and the law?

The answer is that if you've gotten away with it once, you think you'll get away with it again. But it only needs to happen once: "It only takes a split second." When you use your mobile behind the wheel, taking your mind and eyes off the road for that split second can destroy everything forever.

Our new campaign for mobile distraction focuses on just this point. We see a split second under the microscope - caught in time. We introduce the viewer to a serene world in a barbecue setting in a family garden. We see a series of actions, split seconds caught in a loop, the consequences are harmless. Just everyday life. However, as our focus moves over to the road, we see a driver is texting while driving. In that split second we see a collision with a family is devastatingly imminent.

At the end of the ad, time returns to normal. We see the crash from the point of view of the phone. It's a jarring, somewhat emotionally shocking scene.

In the last scene we challenge the viewers: "Your mobile, would it kill you to put it away?"

Missing a call or text won't kill you, and you'll probably find that it's not really as urgent as you think, but making or sending the text could. Do what you need to stay safe. Put the phone on silent, put it to the 'airplane' setting, switch it off altogether, or put it completely out of reach, whatever works for you.

Indo Motoring

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