No one can argue that distracted driving is a huge problem in this country—so much so that as with many other national concerns and crises, we now have “Distracted Driving Awareness” month—April. In an effort to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving, the National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The NSC hopes that “addressing what causes crashes, as well as the roles that vehicles, drivers, road systems and technology play will lead to the goal of zero car crash fatalities.” While that’s a lofty—and likely impossible goal—it’s a goal we all should try to achieve, and all it requires is that we put our devices down, limit our use of in-car technology while driving, and pay attention to the road ahead and our surroundings.
Proof of the Distracted Driving Crisis
In 2016, 3,450 people died in distracted driving-related car accidents. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents where distracted driving played a part. During any given day, about 450,000 drivers are driving while using their cell phone. According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of people driving while using devices is increasing at an alarming rate.
Driving while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. But what’s different about distracted driving is that many people guilty of this offense are not even aware they’re doing it. Reaching for your lunch, coffee, music, GPS, or your phone are all distractions. Thinking about what you’re going to say to your boss when you call is a distraction. Anything that takes your hands, mind, or eyes of the road is a distraction.
Many Different Distractions, but Texting is the Biggest
Texting is the most common form of distracted driving, and here are the numbers to prove that: The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving, and one out of every four car accidents in this country is caused by texting and driving.
The average text requires that your eyes be off the road for a minimum of five seconds, which is like the driving the length of a football field blindfolded at a rate of speed of 55 mph. Who would drive blindfolded? Everyone who looks down at their phone while driving is driving blindfolded.
Distracted Driving Takes Many Forms
While texting is the main culprit, it’s not the only form of distracted driving that’s killing so many Americans every year. Distracted driving takes many forms and can be a manual distraction, a visual distraction, or a cognitive distraction:
- Unsecure objects, unsecure people, and pets moving about the inside of the car
- Choosing/changing music
- Voice commands
- Hands-free device use
- Conversing, goofing off with passengers
- Rubber necking to see an accident
- Eating or drinking
- Applying makeup and adjusting clothing
Some states have enacted distracted driving laws and have made texting while driving a primary offense for which you can be cited. Distracted driving is a secondary offense in many states, which means if you’re pulled over for speeding but were texting or in some other way distracted, you may be issued a citation for the first offense of speeding and for distracted driving, as the secondary offense.
It’s April, which means it’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so please put away the distractions and save a life today.