Car accidents can occur for a variety of reasons: aggressive driving behavior, mechanical failure in a vehicle, and ignoring the rules of the road, including speeding, for example. However, the top cause of collisions may surprise you. Despite multiple initiatives intended to help reduce the behavior, many drivers do it frequently behind the wheel.
The most common cause of collisions? Distracted driving.
Distracted Driving: Evaluated
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) breaks distracted driving down into three key categories.
Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off of the road. The average vehicle travels at a very high rate of speed. At just 55 miles per hour, you can cover the length of a football field in less than 5 seconds. That means a lot of potential for accidents—and with your eyes off the road, you may have no idea that those hazards have presented themselves in front of you.
Even with both hands on the wheel, you may have a hard time navigating around potential threats on the road. Visual distractions can also make it difficult to predict the road’s direction, spot turns as you approach them, or recognize traffic signals, all of which can pose a substantial risk on the road.
Manual distractions remove the driver’s hands from the wheel, which means that the driver cannot respond quickly and safely to dangers around him. While many common driving maneuvers require just one hand on the wheel, others, especially sharp or jerky movements, can require both hands for the driver to complete the maneuver safely and effectively.
In an accident or potential accident scenario, seconds count—and the extra seconds needed to get both hands on the wheel can cause an accident or increase the severity of an accident.
A cognitively distracted driver takes his attention from the road while behind the wheel. Cognitive distractions can pose some of the most dangerous distractions associated with driving. When you allow yourself to become cognitively distracted, you may lose track of what happens around you.
You may not recognize potential threats because you simply do not have your mind on what you need to do to navigate safely on the road. Unfortunately, the longer that distraction lasts, the more difficult it can grow to safely drive your vehicle.
Common Distractions on the Road
Most people know the dangers associated with texting and driving—and most states have enacted legislation intended to reduce distracted driving risk and keep people from using their phones while driving. However, despite laws that attempt to prevent those dangerous actions behind the wheel, an estimated 56 percent of American adults admit to “sometimes” texting while behind the wheel.
Cell phone use, however, does not pose the only distraction behind the wheel. Many drivers who know and even avoid texting while driving may not take the same steps to avoid these other common distractions.
Eating and Drinking
Eating and drinking behind the wheel seem like a reasonable time-saving measure, especially for people who need to get to work early in the morning or people on a long road trip. Unfortunately, it can also pose an immense distraction while driving. Sometimes, eating and drinking can pose an immense visual distraction: the driver may block his view of the road while consuming a drink, for example.
Eating and drinking also mean that the driver must take at least one hand off of the wheel. Eating messy food can prove even more dangerous, especially if the driver does inadvertently make a mess while eating or drinking.
Changing the radio, checking GPS settings, or even altering the flow of air through the vehicle: all those common changes require the driver to take his attention away from driving. Changing those settings can prove important to a more comfortable or more effective trip.
Making those changes while driving, however, can mean visual distraction as the driver’s attention goes to those settings, cognitive distractions as the driver considers how those settings work or what changes he needs to make, and manual distraction as his hands come off the wheel to make those changes. Programming a more difficult device, including a GPS, or using a phone to change the music playing through the radio can pose an even more potent distraction.
Passengers in the vehicle can pose a potent distraction for many drivers, who may have a hard time addressing those distractions while remaining focused on the road. Even a very involved conversation with someone in the vehicle can pose an immense distraction for some drivers. Dealing with children and pets can prove even more difficult.
Children may, for example, drop an item in the car and need help retrieving it, or throw a fit that takes the driver’s attention from the road as he attempts to address the challenge. Pets often roam about the vehicle unchecked and can even end up in the driver’s face, creating many problems for those drivers.
Many Texas drivers, since they may face long commutes, will choose to take care of work tasks while commuting. However, those actions can sometimes backfire immensely. Checking email or responding to messages can cause serious distractions behind the wheel, much like texting and driving.
A work meeting via phone can also pose a greater distraction than an ordinary conversation with a friend or family member since drivers may have to pay more attention to the conversation instead of focusing on what they need to do behind the wheel.
Distracted driving causes countless accidents each year. Annually, it serves as a contributing factor in at least 9 percent of fatal accidents and may contribute to even more collisions with serious injuries. If you suffer injuries in an accident with a distracted driver, contact an auto accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.