April is National Distracted Driving Month. Every day preventable accidents occur due to distracted driving. Many people have heard the campaigns against texting and driving, but distracted driving can encompass a wide range of behavior behind the wheel. Better understanding of distracted driving and why it is so dangerous is important to help promote general road safety.
Distracted driving is defined as any action that takes attention away from the driver’s primary task of operating a vehicle. All distracted behavior endangers not only the life of the driver, but also the lives of any passengers, other drivers, and innocent bystanders. These distracted behaviors include, but are not limited to, texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, using GPS or other navigational devices, reading, watching videos, smoking, and adjusting music players. Engaging in visual distractions while driving increases your chance of getting into an accident by three times. The most dangerous distractions are the ones that split your attention in different ways involving your visual, cognitive, and manual attention.
One form of distracted driving that splits your attention in all three of these ways is texting and driving. At any given moment in a day, 660,000 drivers in America are using phones or using electronic devices while driving, according to distraction.gov. Distraction.gov also states that a quarter of all teenagers send a text at least once every time they drive. 20% of teenagers and 10% of parents admit to having longer text conversations while driving. The average text message distracts a driver for about five seconds. If the driver is driving at highway speeds, that is about 300 feet that the driver is not paying attention to. The simple act of sending a text message, unfortunately often has very real consequences. The National Safety Council reports that at least 28% of all car accidents happen because of cellphone use while driving. That doesn’t include other forms of distracted driving. Many of these accidents result in serious injuries and even deaths. When you think of the possible consequences of texting and driving you have to wonder, what text could be worth someone’s life? What phone call can’t wait?
One of the greatest ways we can confront the problem of distracted driving is through education. By making drivers aware of potentially dangerous driving behavior, we can help put an end to distracted driving. If more drivers would put down the cell phones and other distractions, we would make our roads safer places. Every accident that occurs as a result of distracted driving is 100% preventable. So next time you’re on the road, practice safe driving habits. Put your phone on silent or vibrate when you’re driving, pull over to send emails or listen to voicemails, and tell your friends and family you’ll answer them once you reach your destination. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.