Most people are familiar with the dangers and potential auto accident risks associated with drunk driving, aggressive driving and drowsy driving. The term “distracted driving” and the risks it poses are considered relatively new.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” This means any time a driver’s eyes come off the road, hands come off the wheel or mind is off the task of operating a vehicle, it is a distraction which could lead to an accident, causing serious or fatal injuries.
Before we owned smartphones connected to the Internet, drivers didn’t think twice about keeping their full attention on the task of driving. Today, the constant texting behind the wheel by many drivers means all travelers are facing a dramatically increased risk of injury or death as a result of distracted driving.
DISTRACTED DRIVING STATISTICS
Statistics from the Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving reveal that in 2013, 3,154 people lost their lives and another 424,000 suffered injury in accidents and collisions involving distracted drivers. Younger drivers in their 20s allegedly accounted for 27 percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes that year. That number is not surprising considering how much time young adults spend talking, texting, and using their cell phones.
An even more frightening statistic is that the government reports close to 660,000 people are driving while texting, using their cell phone or controlling an electronic device at any given moment during daylight hours. It only takes about five seconds for a car to go the length of a football field when traveling at 55 mph. That is also the average time a person’s eyes are off the road while texting.
WAYS A DRIVER CAN BECOME DISTRACTED
Drivers can be distracted by any number of activities or objects. Some of the more common ways for a driver to become distracted include:
- Hand-held use of a cell phone or smartphone to send or receive text messages, make or receive calls, read or send emails, use apps or post to social media
- Hands-free calling, either through a cell phone or vehicle-enabled device
- Talking or interaction with other passengers
- Eating or drinking
- Tending to personal grooming
- Use of an in-vehicle navigation system
- Programming or adjusting the radio, CD player, MP3 player, or DVD player
- Attempting to use in-vehicle device in which the driver has no familiarity
- Watching a video
- Reading or trying to decipher directions on a map
- People, objects or events outside the vehicle
- Trying to find a business or place
- Moving objects instead the vehicle, such as pets, insects or bugs
- Reaching for objects
THE IMPACT FOCUS HAS ON ACCIDENT PREVENTION
Drivers need to have their full, undivided attention on the task of driving from the moment they get behind the wheel of any motor vehicle. Individuals who have other activities or actions which pull their focus off the task of driving should do these activities prior to leaving or after arriving at their intended destination – or pull over. Your safety and security, as well as the safety and security of your passengers and others traveling along Louisiana state roads and highways depend on your ability to avoid driver distractions.
The following are a few of the tips AAA and other companies offer to help driver avoid unnecessary distractions while behind the wheel:
- If you do not want to turn your cell phone off, download an app that will block texts and calls while you are driving
- Remind passengers that you need to focus on driving and get their help eliminating distractions
- Be sure to get children, pets and any loose objects properly secured before you leave
- If children or pets do need attention along the way, pull over to a place where you can safely stop, exit your vehicle and tend to their needs
- Eat before you leave or once you arrive
- If you need a drink, get one with a lid and straw to minimize the risk of spills
- Tend to all personal grooming at home or upon arrival
If you make the commitment to stay alert and focus your attention on the road, you can substantially reduce the risk of being involved in a serious or fatal vehicle-related accident. When driving, your safety and the safety of others takes priority.