In today's fast-paced world, it seems there are too many things competing for our attention. On the road, however, being distracted by any of them can have dangerous consequences. Most people tend to associate the rise of distracted driving behavior with Smartphone use, but there are a number of everyday behaviors that are just as dangerous.
1. Listening to Music
Finding the perfect soundtrack is often considered a key part of any road trip, but experts caution that listening to music can create a distracting environment. Several studies on this issue have resulted in some important information regarding how music affects your driving ability:
- An Israeli study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that listening to music you enjoy increases driving errors, since your favorite tunes promote the sort of active listening that takes attention from the road.
- Memorial University in Newfoundland found that the volume of music creates a safety hazard. When songs are played at 95 decibels (a volume equivalent to a lawnmower), the time needed to make safe driving decisions increases by 20 percent.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted research suggesting that searching for songs represents the primary danger for distracted driving. Scrolling through a 580-song playlist takes a person's eyes off the road for about two seconds. Previous distracted driving research indicates taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.
2. Eating and Drinking
Whether it's a meal from your favorite fast food restaurant or a few sips of coffee on the way to work, eating and drinking behind the wheel can be risky. A study by Lytx found that drivers with food or drink have a 3.6 times greater risk of being involved in a car accident. Spilled food on your clothing or car floor can take your attention off the road, and hot liquids can cause painful burns. You might also start to choke while eating, creating a dangerous emergency.
The best remedy for this type of distraction is to simply avoid eating and drinking in the car. You'll stay safer, your car will likely be cleaner, and you may even lose a few pounds. Several studies have suggested people tend to consume more calories when they are distracted by other tasks instead of fully focusing on their food.
3. Being Angry or Sad
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that driving while angry or sad is said to increase the risk of being involved in a car accident by 10 times. When you're emotionally troubled, you're thinking about the incident that triggered the anger or sadness. If there were others involved in an argument or disagreement, you may also be thinking about how to confront them or continue the conversation later. This takes your focus off the road and obeying traffic laws.
The best way to prevent accidents caused by emotional driving is to simply postpone getting behind the wheel until you feel calmer. If you're driving and your emotions get the best of you, find a safe place to pull over where you can practice deep breathing exercises or call someone to talk with until you're ready to continue traveling.
4. Traveling with Pets
Your four-legged friend may be adorable, but traveling with pets can increase your risk of an auto accident. AAA reports that unrestrained pets are a factor in about 30,000 traffic accidents each year in the United States. To reduce the risk of accidents, the agency recommends:
- Always use a carrier and keep your pet in the back seat.
- Take your pet to places other than the vet, so your dog or cat doesn’t automatically associate the car with a distressing experience.
- Travel with your pet's favorite blanket or toy.
- Don’t allow your dog to put its head out an open window, since debris could injure an eye and cause pain that might be a distraction to you.
If your pet is known to become agitated in the car, you may also want to consider having someone ride in the back seat, so you're not distracted by attempting to calm your pet.
Protecting Your Rights After an Accident
If you've been injured in an auto accident caused by another party's negligence, Louisiana law entitles you to file a personal injury claim seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages or loss of future earning potential, and pain and suffering. If you were found to have partially contributed to the accident due to distracted driving, you can still seek compensation. However, your settlement will be proportionally reduced by your percentage of fault.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's award-winning legal team protects the rights of Louisiana residents who've been injured in accidents related to distracted driving. Contact us online or call our office directly 318.541.8188 to schedule a no-fee consultation.