Most people have heard the term distracted driving and generally understand what it means. However, you may not realize all the different behaviors that distract people from driving or just how risky these behaviors can be.
Research has indicated that the problem of distraction increases annually, with teen and young drivers at the highest risk. Therefore, all drivers need to take the time to understand the complexity and danger associated with all distracting driving behaviors, not just cell phone use while driving. They need to eliminate distractions while they drive. If someone else fails to do so and injures you, you may need to learn how a car accident lawyer can help you recover compensation.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Any behavior that takes a driver’s eyes or focus off of the task of driving is considered distracted driving.
Simply put, any activity that takes your attention off the road is distracted driving.
- Manual distractions: cause you to take your hands off the steering wheel
- Visual Distractions: cause you to take your eyes off the road
- Cognitive distractions: cause you to take your focus off the task of driving
Generally, cognitive distractions are considered the most dangerous because the driver is often unaware they are distracted and makes no effort to prevent an imminent accident. However, all distracted driving is hazardous due to the high risk of injury and fatal accidents caused by these behaviors. Some behaviors, including cell phone use and eating while driving, include all three types of distraction.
Consequences of Distracted Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 3,000 people die in car accidents involving a distracted driver annually. The CDC data estimates that teens and younger drivers were the most at risk for distracted driving, with 25 percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents aged between 20-29.
Additionally, according to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was a factor in 9 percent of fatal accidents, 15 percent of injury accidents, and 15 percent of all police-reported crashes. The NHTSA data reports that over 560 pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-occupants were killed in distraction-related crashes for the survey year.
Any kind of distraction, especially cell phone use, can put you and all other drivers on the road at risk of being hurt or killed in an accident.
Cell Phone Use Is a Persistent and Dangerous Distracted Driving Behavior
Cell phone use, whether taking a phone call, sending a text, surfing the web, checking emails, or one of the other multitudes of things you can do on today’s smartphones, is well-known to be an incredibly risky behavior while behind the wheel. In fact, one University of Utah study concluded that the impairments of using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as that of driving under the influence.
Although all cell phone use while driving is concerning, texting seems to be one of the riskiest behaviors. NHTSA estimates that texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for around 5 seconds, and when driving 55 miles per hour, this is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field without looking at the road. With one NHTSA study estimating that up to 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone while driving at any given daylight moment, it is clear this is a big problem on the roadways.
Additionally, because there is no test to determine if a driver was using a cell phone in the moments leading to a crash, it is hard to understand the full scope of the problem.
Hands-Free Cell Phone Use While Driving Is Also Hazardous
Although many states have implemented some form of legislation to prohibit or reduce the use of cell phones while driving, the focus is generally on handheld use. Yet, according to a white paper by the National Safety Council (NSC), the human brain has a limited capacity for attention and will attempt to juggle focus and concentration when performing two relatively complex tasks. This includes driving and talking on the phone, even if the driver speaks on a hands-free device.
Distracted drivers can experience inattention blindness, where they are seemingly paying attention to the road, but the cognitive distraction makes it hard for the driver to process the entire picture of their environment. Additionally, this attention switching decreases reaction time. The NSC report estimates that cell phone conversations of any kind can quadruple the risk of an accident.
Other Common Types of Distracted Driving
Although talking on a cell phone or texting is probably what most people think of when they consider distracted driving, several other behaviors also constitute distracted driving. Anytime a driver’s focus is not on the task of driving and following the rules of the road, they are engaging in distracted driving.
Other common distracted driving behaviors that may lead to an accident include:
- Setting a GPS
- Using in-vehicle screens
- Eating or drinking
- Reading maps or signs
- Interacting with passengers
- Applying makeup
- Changing the radio
- Attending to children
- Smoking a cigarette
- Looking for an item
- Managing pets in the car
- Looking at an accident
- Driving while fatigued
While this is not an exhaustive list, it can remind all drivers about the inherent risk in some of the daily behaviors that people on the roadway engage in.
Preventing Distracted Driving
Proper care can prevent all accidents.
Drivers can reduce the chance of distraction-related accidents if they:
- Never try to multitask behind the wheel
- Set your cell phone to do not disturb
- Use an app to help you stay off your phone
- Keep vehicle passengers to a minimum
- Set your GPS or map app before you start driving
- Secure your belongings, pets, and children
- If you need to use your cell phone, ask a passenger or pull over
- Program your stereo or music before your trip
All drivers need to take caution and focus on the road to reduce the risk of harm to others. Distracted driving accidents can leave people with severe injuries. Additionally, distraction-related injury and death accidents are preventable if drivers stay focused on the task of driving.
If you were in a distracted driving accident, contact a car accident lawyer today to learn more about how they can help you.