Distracted Driving: Preventable and Deadly
It only takes a few seconds to look down at your phone to read a text message from a friend or check to see if you received an email, and it always seems like a harmless deed. But when done while you’re driving, actions like these can have deadly consequences.
World Record Holder Paola Gianotti Injured by Alleged Distracted Driver
Distracted driving is quickly becoming an epidemic in America. The habit kills nine people every day, and injures hundreds of thousands more each year. If that’s not enough to demonstrate to you that distracted driving is sweeping the nation as a deadly practice, consider these startling statistics:
- Ten percent of automobile fatalities involving a driver under the age of 20 were tragedies resulting from distracted driving.
- One-third of drivers openly admit to texting while driving.
- Drivers who use a cell phone in some capacity are approximately four times more likely to be in an accident than those who don’t.
- Drivers who text message while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who aren’t operating a phone or participating in other distracting behavior.
Understanding Distracted Driving
There are three types of distractions that can affect drivers and put them, their passengers and drivers who are sharing the road with them in danger:
- Manual distractions occur when your hands are taken off of the steering wheel.
- Visual distractions happen when you take your eyes off the road.
- Cognitive distractions occur when your mind is focused on something other than driving.
Distracted driving doesn’t just involve phone-addicted teenagers – it’s a problem for everyone. Talking on the phone, sending a quick text, finding directions to a restaurant or applying one last dollop of makeup are all examples of distracted driving that most of us have been guilty of at one point or another. Texting is an especially dangerous behind-the-wheel task because it involves all three types of distractions, so that quick text you’re sending isn’t so harmless after all.
Think about all of the devices available in your car right now. Sure, there’s your mobile phone which you can talk and text on, but that’s not all it’s used for anymore. You can also download a map and get turn-by-turn instructions. You can send emails. You can scan satellite radio to find your favorite song. You can get a weather report for the weekend, or even make a reservation for your anniversary – all while you’re barreling down the highway.
More than 3,000 people are killed in distracted driving accidents each year. But perhaps more staggering is the fact that nearly a half million distracted driving accidents happen each year, many of which involve serious injuries.
While it might seem like looking away from the road for a second or two isn’t a big deal, merely glancing at a mobile device to read a message can be a fatal choice. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the time it takes to compose and send a typical text message is five seconds. When traveling at highway speeds, those five seconds take you a further distance than the length of a football field.
To combat the lure of distracted driving, Marc Lamber and his team have launched this page. Here, you can ask questions and get educated about how you can make sure that you, your family members and your friends have a safe trip every time. We’ll also discuss how we’re battling distracted driving through public service campaigns, legislation, community involvement, and more.
Today, getting into a car and putting on a seat belt is considered a simple and expected activity – but that wasn’t so 30 years ago, when preventable accidents killed far too many, and drivers and passengers viewed seat belts as optional. The same is true for the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of child safety seats – these issues are undisputed and fundamental to traffic safety now, but getting them to common-sense level took time and effort by concerned citizens.
Distracted driving is the motor vehicle safety issue of our time, because although it’s completely preventable, people are still falling victim to its dangers. Our increasingly digitally-connected lives make distracted driving far too easy and attractive. Extra devices and their addictive electronic features make it possible to continue a conference call or schedule an appointment at the same time you’re eating a burger and merging onto a freeway. Something has to be the priority, and far too often, keeping your eyes on the road isn’t No. 1 on the list.
What You Can Do
Fighting distracted driving is something all of us can – and should – be doing. Here are some actions you can take to help ensure the safety of yourself and those around you:
- Set an example for those around you, especially children and teenagers, and model safe driving behavior by keeping your attention on the road and away from blinking and ringing devices.
- Pull over when you need to make a call or send a message.
- Educate family members that distracted driving is extremely dangerous, just like drunk driving or driving without a seat belt.
- Avoid calling or texting friends, colleagues and family who you know are driving.
- Ask your employer to discourage working while driving, such as taking phone calls or responding to emails or text messages.
- Encourage legislation to mandate safe driving.
For more information about distracted driving, visit these resources:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Website on Distracted Driving
- The National Safety Council’s Distracted Driving Research Statistics
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Distracted Driving Resource Page
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Distracted Driving Information Site
- It Can Wait
- The Governors Highway Safety Association’s Tips for Managing Driver Distraction