The importance of keeping your eyes on the road when you’re behind the wheel seems obvious, but distracted driving is a growing cause of traffic crashes. In 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) reported that distracted driving was responsible for more than 3,000 traffic fatalities. While you can’t control the behavior of other drivers on the road, practicing safe driving habits can help ensure you are not responsible for these often deadly accidents.
There are many ways a driver can become distracted. Talking to a passenger, eating while driving, even using a navigation system can result in an unfortunate collision. Although the highest percentage of distracted driving accidents are caused by people ages 25 and younger; just about everyone at some point is guilty of answering their cell phone, responding to a text or looking down for a quick minute to change a song.
The most common and deadly distraction is texting or using a smartphone while driving. Texting requires you to be engaged on three levels: visually, manually and cognitively. In other words, your eyes are on the screen, you’re thinking of a response and then typing it in.
It’s important to remember that texting while driving is illegal in 44 states (although there are some exceptions for emergency situations). While using your cell phone with a hands free device is legal, it may not necessarily reduce your chances of being involved in a distracted driving incident. After all, talking to a passenger is a form of distracted driving too.
To avoid this distraction, try leaving your phone in your purse or bag while driving. Putting the ringer on silent is a good way to minimize the urge to answer when you hear the notification sound ding.
Another common cause of distracted driving accidents results from trying to put on makeup while driving. Yes, it may seem like it only takes a quick second to coat your lashes with luxurious mascara, but it takes the same amount of time to rearend the driver in front of you. Not to mention you may put your eye out with the mascara wand.
The best way to avoid this behavior is by putting on your makeup before you leave, or after you’ve parked at your destination.
Eating while driving is something we all do, and the proliferation of drive-thru restaurants in our country prove this. Even though we all do it, it doesn’t make it any less excusable or dangerous. When you’re chowing down with a burger in one hand and the wheel in the other, you slow down your reaction time to sudden events on the road. Dropping a hot beverage on your lap could cause a chain reaction that ends in a major accident.
Remember those old-fashioned burger drive-up restaurants, where you pull in to park and then ordered? They had the right idea. Taking the time to stop, sit and eat keeps you from being distracted on the road.
Safety never tasted so sweet.
Distracted driving casualties are highest among teens ages 15-19. Since 2009, the US Department of Transportation has been running a national campaign to regulate and reduce distracted driving habits in teens, as well as adults. Their website, distraction.gov, provides educational resources to share with your teen about the dangers of distracted driving. They also have a pledge you and your family can make together to dedicate yourselves to safe driving habits on the road.
Really the key to avoid all forms of driving distractions is practicing self-control. No matter how urgent that phone call or text message may seem, not matter how tempting that steaming cup of coffee or delicious, meaty burger is – it simply is not worth your life or the lives of anyone around you.
We at The Flood Law Firm wish safe travels for you and your family. Should you find yourself in a traffic collision, we are here to assist you on the road to recovery.