Each day in the U.S. about 14 people are killed and roughly 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. That’s 1 in 5 crashes.
You might, at first, think of cell phone texting as the only real dangerous distraction. Not so. While it’s near the top of the list, there are others. It turns out that talking on your cell phone—even hands-free—according to more than 30 studies, is just about as dangerous. While texting takes your eyes off the road, talking on your phone takes your mind off the road.
Types of Distracted Driving
There are three main types of distractions:
- Visual (eyes off the road)
- Manual (hands off the wheel)
- Cognitive (mind off driving)
“Rubbernecking,” looking outside at a person, object, or event, is the most reported distraction. It's followed by adjusting the radio/CD player. For commuters, eating and applying makeup top the list.
Teen drivers are even more at risk for a variety of reasons: immaturity; an invincible attitude; not yet fully developed brain; and less driving experience. Unfortunately, as parents, our own bad example also comes into play.
Stopping Distracted Driving
As a long-time car accident injury lawyer, I can tell you that distracted driving has become the new impaired driving. It’s one thing to make a driving mistake and injure someone. But, your perceived negligence increases dramatically when there is evidence of cell phone use at the time. More and more, officers are investigating this issue as part of their accident report. While not illegal (yet), this activity is viewed by the majority as negligent and very risky.
So, what can be done?
- Turn off your cell phone and place it in the glove compartment while driving.
- Make calls and check messages only after pulling off the road.
- Change your voicemail message to say you don’t take calls or messages while driving.
Changes like these are not easy, but best for all concerned: you, your passengers, and others who share the road.
For your sake, and your children and grandchildren, consider taking the “Focused Driver Challenge” (nsc.org/CallsKill) by pledging to stop using your phone behind the wheel. This is a National Safety Council Program. By accepting the challenge, you agree not to text or have any phone conversation—handheld or hands-free—while driving. Then, you dedicate your pledge to a loved one and share it on Facebook.