Driving requires your full attention. While many people take driving for granted, a driver should never forget that they are operating a complicated piece of equipment that weighs approximately 1 ton at speeds of anywhere between 20 and 70 miles per hour. Failure to devote your full attention to driving—even if it’s ‘just for a few seconds’—can result in a serious or even fatal car accident.
Despite the dangers of distracted driving, surveys show that over half of all drivers have admitted to distracted driving. This statistic is disturbing, especially when you consider that distracted driving was a contributing factor in thousands of deaths in 2018, and caused even more significant injuries.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving occurs any time a driver takes his or her attention away from the road. Examples include talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, talking with passengers in your car, or adjusting your radio or navigation system.
Experts have identified three types of driving distractions: cognitive distractions, visual distractions, and manual distractions.
Cognitive distracted driving occurs when you are not focused on the task of driving. These distractions involve taking your mind off of driving while you think about something else. Examples of cognitive distractions include focusing on a phone conversation or even a conversation with someone else in the car, caring for or disciplining your children, or focusing on a stressful situation that is not related to your drive.
Visual distracted driving occurs when you take your eyes off the road. This could be caused by a billboard or other sign on the side of the road, reading text messages or other content on your cell phone, looking in the mirror to check your appearance, looking at a map or GPS, or watching a video on a cell phone or other digital entertainment system.
Manual distracted driving occurs when the driver is distracted by something in their hands. Manual distractions make the driver unable to fully control the vehicle. Examples of manual distractions include talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, personal grooming (such as putting on clothes, shaving, combing your hair, or applying makeup), or adjusting the radio.
Texting while driving is particularly concerning because it involves all three types of distracted driving
Dangers of Driving While Distracted
Regardless of the cause, leading experts believe that distracted driving is at least as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI). Some researchers claim that distracted driving is six times more dangerous than driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory, writing a text message slows a driver’s reactions by 35% while driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% only slows reactions by 12%.
Even though most drivers know the dangers of distracted driving, a DriversEd.com survey reveals that over half (54%) of drivers surveyed admit to texting while driving.
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is impossible. Research shows that when you try to do two things at once, your brain is actually switching rapidly between two tasks. The implication for driving is simple: it is impossible to drive while talking on the phone, playing with the radio, or sending a text.
While many people take driving for granted, safe driving requires concentration, especially when traveling in a vehicle that weighs close to 1 ton traveling at 55 mph. If you are driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds to send or read a text, you will have traveled the entire length of a football field, essentially with your eyes closed. And if your vehicle crashes into another car, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist, the results can be catastrophic.
According to the NHTSA, in 2018, 2,841 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers. This statistic includes 1,730 drivers, 630 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists.
Laws Against Driving While Distracted
Ohio laws prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone or other device while driving. This prohibition even includes entering information into a GPS device while the vehicle is in motion. In addition, some municipalities have enacted local ordinances that prohibit drivers from talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device. Many have made it a primary offense, meaning that a driver can be stopped and ticketed for talking on the phone while driving.
How to Avoid Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers
Fortunately, avoiding distracted driving accidents is fairly straightforward.
The best option, of course, is to eliminate potential distractions. When it comes to phone calls, text messages, or surfing the internet while driving, just don’t do it. Most cell phones allow users to set a Do Not Disturb feature that automatically sends a text alerting recipients that the user is driving and will call them or text them later. While manufacturers of hands-free devices claim they are safer, using a cell phone with a hands-free device can still cause a distraction. If you truly need to make a call, the better choice is to find a spot to pull over to take the call or send the text.
When it comes to maps and GPS, your radio or other entertainment options, or even the temperature settings inside the passenger compartment, make those adjustments before you get out on the road. If you are driving with passengers, ask them to handle navigation, calls, texts, climate control, and entertainment functions.
Plan ahead. Rather than eating on the go, try to eat before you get on the road. Or if that’s not possible, pull over to eat and drink. And avoid getting dressed, putting on makeup, and any other personal grooming while driving. Give yourself enough time to complete these tasks before setting out on the road.
Finally, don’t be afraid to find a safe place to pull over if a distraction comes up during your drive. Whether it’s a phone call or text, pulling out the map, programming the GPS, or dealing with children or pets in the car, it’s better to be safe and arrive a few minutes late if that means avoiding a serious or even fatal car accident.
Robenalt Law. Advocates for People Hurt in Distracted Driver Accidents
If you or someone you love was injured in a collision with a distracted driver, or if you were hurt in a car crash and suspect distracted driving was a factor, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney today. An attorney can evaluate your case to determine whether you and your family are entitled to compensation for:
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies and other corporate defendants and insurance companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help people who have been catastrophically injured or killed in trucking accidents.
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