We’re all guilty of it…distracted driving. Whether it’s because you were in a rush or because you weren’t, people are constantly multi-tasking when driving. This proves to be highly detrimental as, on average, 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities are due to distracted driving. And while most people believe that teens are the most susceptible to distracted driving, this is an epidemic that affects drivers within all age groups.
This has become so common that many people are now referring to distracted driving as the new drunk driving. They both follow the same psychological patterns–drivers who initially get away with driving while distracted will continue to do so until they are involved in a crash or get caught. Since April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, let’s take a look at the effects of distracted driving and how we can stop these preventable deaths and injuries.
Defining Distracted Driving
But before we get started, let’s take a look at what distracted driving is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, defines distracted driving as, “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” This includes, but isn’t limited to, eating and drinking, chatting on the phone, scrolling through social media, texting while driving, and more.
Charleston personal injury lawyer, Max Sparwasser says that texting while driving is the most dangerous form of distracted driving since it removes your eyes, hands, and mind away from driving. The NHTSA states that sending or reading a text typically takes your eyes off the road for roughly 5 seconds. If you’re driving at 55 miles per hour, this would equate to blindly driving the length of a football field.
The Aftermath of Driving While Distracted
While many people are aware that distracted driving is capable of causing crashes, injuries, and fatalities, they don’t fully understand how many accidents this phenomenon has actually caused and could cause. In just 2015 alone, there were 391,000 injuries and 3,477 deaths due to distracted drivers. Yes, that’s just for one year alone. These numbers are also believed to be underreported since it is difficult to prove that a driver was distracted when an accident occurs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has also reported that during daylight hours, there are 660,000 drivers using their cell phones while operating a vehicle. Since it only takes 3 seconds for a crash to occur, dialing someone’s phone number is more than enough time to cause an accident.
There are additional effects of distracted driving, such as receiving a ticket, needing to go to traffic school, increased insurance premiums, or needing to pay a fine.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
While the government has started to take action against distracted driving with various laws, like no texting while driving and hands-free phone calls, there are more ways that you can stay safe on the road. Here are a few ways to stop yourself from driving while distracted.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
While this one may sound self-explanatory, it is definitely worth mentioning. Many drivers get distracted by reading billboards and other advertisements. Don’t actively scan the road or the environments that you’re passing while driving. Avoid this by keeping your eyes solely on the road.
Put Your Phone on Do Not Disturb
Most people get distracted by their phones due to an incoming text, push notification, or phone call. Prevent yourself from hearing or seeing those by putting your phone on Do Not Disturb every time you get into the car. While Apple created this feature so that people wouldn’t be woken up by notifications, it is the perfect thing to keep you distraction-free while you’re on the road.
Apps to Help You Stay Focused on the Road
If you feel like there will be times where you absolutely have to use your phone while driving, there are a few apps which will help minimize your distractions.
- Drivemode. Drivemode is an app that you can download which will allow you to control navigation, change songs, contact people and respond to messages with big buttons or hands-free voice reply. This app is so user-friendly that major vehicle manufacturers are looking to have it pre-installed in their cars.
- Safe Driving + Auto SMS. This app helps you stay safe by automatically replying to calls and texts while you are driving. Craft a message that you would like sent as a reply while you’re driving then set your status to “driving” and you’re good to go!
- Safely Go. Similar to Safe Driving, Safely Go intercepts all your calls and text messages and replies to them for you. It also allows you to talk on the phone through a Bluetooth device and notifies a user-specified list of people that you’re on the road.
Avoid Eating on the Road
Since many of us are in the rush in the mornings, we attempt to eat breakfast on the road. However, while eating while driving may sound easy, it actually proves to be quite a nuisance. When eating or drinking something that has a high likelihood of spilling, we are often more concerned with not getting our clothes dirty than the road. If you absolutely need to eat while driving, try to eat foods that are easy to handle such as baby carrots, crackers, and nuts.
Distracted driving is the cause of many preventable injuries and deaths. Be cautious and aware of your actions while you’re driving to not only save your own life but potentially the lives of others as well. Stay alert to stay safe.