Many people spend some portion of their day in a vehicle. As drivers, it is crucial that people stay alert and aware of what is happening around them. Being conscious of the activity of other drivers and road conditions is a crucial part of driving safely and reducing the risk of being involved in a vehicle accident or crash. Unfortunately, there are many things that can distract a driver from being as alert as they should be. When these distractions happen, the risks and dangers to the driver, passengers, and others increase. People can reduce their risks of becoming distracted drivers by understanding what it is and exactly how dangerous it is.
What Is Distracted Driving?
There are a multitude of things that can take a person’s attention or eyes off of the road and the act of driving a car. These things are called distractions, whether they are human or electronic. When these distractions happen while a person is driving, it is known as distracted driving. Distractions generally fall into one of three categories, or they may be a combination of the three. When something causes a person to remove their hands from the steering wheel, it is called a manual distraction. Examples of a manual distraction are reaching for one’s cell phone or purse. When something takes a person’s eyes off of what they should be looking at while driving, it is considered a visual distraction. Visual distractions include watching the antics of a passenger in the car or watching a video that is playing in the car. When an individual’s mind is distracted, it is a cognitive distraction. A heated debate or argument with a passenger or holding a conversation on a hands-free cell phone are examples of cognitive distractions. Texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone are combinations of all three deadly distractions.
Statistics and Facts
To fully understand distracted driving and appreciate how serious of a problem it is, it’s important that drivers know the facts and statistics associated with it. Every day, more than 660,000 people drive while using a hand-held cell phone. The daily number of death and injuries caused by distracted driving is astounding. According to the CDC, there are more than 1,060 injures and at least nine deaths that occur every day due to distracted driving in the U.S. Distraction.gov states that in 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes caused by distracted driving, and it estimates that there were roughly 421,000 people injured due to these types of crashes. Using a cell phone or texting are forms of visual-manual distractions. These types of distractions triple a driver’s risk of getting in a crash When it comes to distracted driving crashes, 16% involved inexperienced drivers under the age of 20. Of fatal crashes, 10% of the drivers were under the age of 20.
What Are the Consequences?
The consequences of distracted driving can be legal, personal, and financial in nature. Nearly all states have laws regarding distracted driving, particularly when it comes to texting and cell phone usage. Breaking these laws can lead to fines, license suspension, legal action, and even jail time if it results in an accident, injury, or death. On a personal level, a person may find themselves coping with the fallout from their distraction if they were the cause of someone’s injury or death. Distracted driving may also result in injury or death to the driver themselves, and depending on the severity of the accident, it can cause a number of health and psychological problems that could last a lifetime.
What Can I Do to Prevent Distracted Driving?
Everyone can take action to prevent distracted driving and, as a result, potentially save lives. As a driver, it is important to remove temptation. That means turning off one’s cell phone before starting the car and putting it in a location that is out of reach. Remove or reduce as many distractions as possible by programming music, setting mirrors, and reviewing directions before hitting the road. Ask passengers to refrain from distracting behavior, and keep children occupied with activities or even videos. If it is necessary to tend to children, pull over in a safe location first. Taking care of personal grooming, such as applying makeup, should also be done in advance, before getting in the car. As passengers, people should ask the driver not to talk or text while the car is in motion. Passengers should also refrain from any behaviors or discussions that split the driver’s attention or take it off of the road entirely. Parents of new or learning drivers can help by leading by example. Be positive role models of what should or should not be done while driving a vehicle.
- Texting and the Dangers of Distracted Driving: On this page, the Centers for Disease Control presents a strong case against driving while distracted. Visitors will find a wealth of statistics as well as links to additional resources.
- What is Distracted Driving? Distraction.gov defines what it means to drive while distracted in this concise but informative document. Also included are examples and statistics that stress the true dangers involved.
- Driver Distractions – Don’t Be a Statistic: Visitors to this California Department of Motor Vehicles page will find information on what constitutes distracted driving in the eyes of the law. It also gives some advice on how to avoid distractions.
- FCC Encyclopedia – Distracted Driving: Mobile devices and other driver distractions are covered by the Federal Communications Commission in this short article. At the end, it includes a list of links to other related online resources.
- Take Action to Stop the Distraction: This is a PDF brochure by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety regarding distracted driving. It includes a short list of common examples.
- Quick Facts About Texting and Driving: This short article points out some facts and statistics regarding driving while distracted.
- Distracted Driving: Dangerous Distractions: This Potsdam University article discusses distracted driving. It talks about the progress made in reducing distracted–driving-related fatalities and also lists some examples of what it means to be distracted while behind the wheel.
- Learn the Facts About Distracted Driving: End Distracted Driving has an article about driving while distracted. It includes statistics, examples, and types of distractions, plus survey information.
- Distracted Driving Can Ruin Young Lives: Visitors to this page by the UC Davis Medical Center can find information on distracted driving. Examples, statistics, and advice for talking to teenage drivers about good driving habits are covered here.
- Cell Phone Use/Texting Is a Danger While Driving: The state of New York weighs in on the issue of distracted driving with this informative resource. Readers can find definitions of distracted driving as well as statistics.
- TREDS – Distracted Driving: This article from UC San Diego explains to drivers why distractions are dangerous. It includes research information and statistics as well as advice on good driving habits and links to other resources.
- Ten Tips for Managing Driver Distraction: (PDF) Visitors to this Governors Highway Safety Association page can find information about distracted driving. Not only does it give tips on how to avoid being distracted, but it also offers some statistics to remind the driver of how dangerous this behavior can be.
- Traditional Driving Distractions Also a Problem, NAGHSR Warns: There are several articles on this page that are related to distracted driving. One article is about a distracted driving survey, while another discusses eating and changing CDs, and a third article is about how to avoid distractions.
- How to Stop Distracted Drivers Once and For All: Fox News features advice on how to stop distracted driving in this opinion piece. The article talks about the many conventional and unconventional ways in which law enforcement has tried to combat this problem.
- Distracted Driving Public Education: The National Safety Council published this page to advise drivers against being distracted while on the road. There are videos, comparisons to driving while under the influence, and other facts and statistics found here.
- Inattentive Driving: The Missouri Department of Transportation has a page hosted by the University of Missouri that pertains to the issue of safe driving. Issues that it covers include distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, and safety tips in the event of a crash.
- Distracted Driving Shatters Lives: Consumer Reports has a PDF brochure about distracted driving. Tragic stories and a set of prevention tips are covered in this document.
- On the Road Again: Readers can find definitions, facts and statistics, and frequently asked questions about distracted driving on this page by the Environmental Health and Safety Committee.
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Distracted Driving: The American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety has a brief article about distracted driving. It features key facts, traffic safety news, and basic statistics about the dangers involved with this behavior.
- Road Safety Information – Distracted Driving: This PDF fact sheet by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents offers a wealth of information about the dangers of driving while distracted. Readers will find information about the definition and types of distracted driving, statistics, potential consequences, and how to avoid distractions.
By Ted Burgess