The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes distracted driving as any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from driving, or endangers the driver, passenger, and bystanders. It has, unfortunately become a trend with real and even deadly consequences, prompting the NHTSA to start Distracted Driving Awareness month, which takes place annually in April.
Distracted driving can include texting, talking on the phone, drinking or eating while driving, constantly adjusting the radio, putting on makeup, and much more. Text messaging is, by far one of the most dangerous distractions as it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving.
Distracted Driving by the Numbers
- 10% of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes in 2013. (NHTSA)
- In 2013, 10 percent of all drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. (NHTSA)
- In 2014, 431,000 people were injured and 3,179 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. (NHTSA)
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when you are driving 55 mph the average text (about 4.6 seconds) will take your eyes off of the road long enough to drive the length of a football field.
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. (CDC)
- Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
- In 2013, more than two out of five students who drove in the past 30 days sent a text or email while driving. (CDC)
These numbers are more than just statistics. These numbers are parents, children, friends, and neighbors. These deaths and injuries all could have been prevented if only drivers had been paying attention to the road instead of something else. Often people will say, “I can do two things at once. I’ve memorized where the numbers are on my phone, so I don’t have to look.” Or, “Sending or reading one text is pretty quick – that should be okay.” They couldn’t be more wrong. No one is immune from the dangers of distracted driving.
The NHTSA’s message is simple – “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.” Supporters range from President Obama to Adam Levine and legislation is being passed across the nation to discourage distracted driving in hopes that drivers are getting the message loud and clear.
Here are 10 tips from the Governors Highway Safety Association for managing some of the most common distractions:
- Turn it off and stow it. Turn your phone off or switch it to silent mode before you get in the car. Then stow it away so that it’s out of reach.
- Spread the word. Record a message on your phone that tells callers you’re driving and will get back to them when you’re off the road, or sign up for a service that offers this feature.
- Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
- Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call or respond to a text for you.
- X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It’s dangerous and against the law in most states. Even voice-to-text isn’t risk-free.
- Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones in addition to texting.
- Prepare. If using a GPS device, enter your destination before you start to drive. If you prefer a map or written directions, review them in advance. If you need help while driving, ask a passenger to assist you or pull over to a safe location to change your GPS or review your map/directions.
- Secure your pets. Unsecured pets can be a big distraction in the car.
- Mind the kids. Pull over to a safe place to address situations involving children in the car.
- Focus on driving. Multi-tasking behind the wheel is dangerous. Refrain from eating, drinking, reading, grooming, smoking, and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.
“As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel,” states AAA.
For more information about distracted driving, please visit www.distraction.gov.