AutoMatters: Distracted Driving & “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Leeana Clegg lost her son Hunter in a distracted driving accident

By Jan Wagner

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To draw our attention to the life-threatening dangers posed by distracted driving, and to help people become safer, more responsible and better-informed drivers and passengers, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, Impact Teen Drivers, the California Office of Traffic Safety, more than 250 law enforcement agencies – including the California Highway Patrol, and others have joined together in a state-wide public awareness and education campaign.

In San Diego, Leeana Clegg – a grieving mother who lost her son Hunter when he was a 14-year-old passenger in a tragic distracted driving accident, told us his story. Law enforcement officials and others gave us grim statistics. Did you know that looking away from the road for just three seconds of texting while driving at 65mph is the equivalent of driving 100 yards, or the length of a football field?

Emergency braking exercise with pedestrians

Teens took part in distracted driving exercises. Distracted driving can occur in many ways, including talking or texting on cell phones, reaching for an object, eating or drinking, adjusting the radio, having a conversation with others in the vehicle, putting on makeup, reading, “rubber necking” (looking at something on the side of the road) and more. If we think that we are good enough drivers to ‘safely’ do this from time to time, we are fooling ourselves. The reality is that it only takes a moment of distraction to fail to see the car ahead of us unexpectedly stopping abruptly or swerving to avoid an obstruction in the road, a pedestrian walking out from between two parked cars or having our car wander dangerously out of its lane. These situations and countless others have the potential to cause terrible accidents that can forever shatter lives. Allowing ourselves to be distracted is dangerous.

Teen driving while distracted

No one is immune to distracted driving but teens are particularly vulnerable. They may not have been driving long enough to have experienced – first-hand, consequences of distracted driving. Those of us who have been driving for many years have no doubt been distracted many times while driving, and yet most of us have somehow managed – through some combination of driving skill and luck, to avoid getting into serious accidents despite those distractions. I’m sure that many of us can vividly recall at least one particularly chilling, close call that we had while distracted behind the wheel. Those experiences motivate us to drive more carefully and to actively avoid distracted driving. Teenagers do not have those experiences. We need to communicate ours to them.

Within the relatively safe confines of an expansive parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium, where the only thing likely to be hit were flexible traffic cones, teen drivers took turns trying to negotiate a difficult but doable, meandering road course, and an emergency braking exercise. They learned, first-hand, the stark difference between their ability to safely parallel park, drive the course at an appropriate speed and perform an emergency braking maneuver when they had no distractions, as opposed to when they had a carload full of distractions: young friends shouting and pointing, the radio blaring, cell phones ringing and more.

Distractions in the car

We must get through to teens about distracted driving in ways that are meaningful to them. Their inability to safely negotiate the closed course exercises while being distracted did that. On this day traffic cones paid the price for their distracted driving, but in the real world people are getting hit and killed. All it takes is a moment of inattention due to distracted driving. This can often and easily be avoided.

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy ( teaches teens, through six months of behind the wheel and online or classroom training, to become safer drivers. Additional resources and information are available at: and

Distractions can lead to downed cones and worse

Let’s end on a lighter note, at the movies. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a non-stop, lightning-fast paced action adventure, with state-of-the-art special effects, a good story and credible acting.

The futuristic helicarriers are enormous, flying aircraft carriers, complete with jet aircraft. At rest and in aerial combat, they are absolutely incredible in their extreme degree of detail and photo-realism. See video of these and learn about how they were created by the geniuses at Industrial Light and Magic here:

To see a preview of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” learn about the story, get downloads and more, go to:

As always, please write to

with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – #327