Everyone knows that using your mobile phone while driving is extremely dangerous and is an increasing cause of all types of car accidents. Approximately nine people every single day die in distracted driving accidents, and more than 1,000 are injured.
In 2015, more than 3,400 people were killed and more than 390,000 people were injured by accidents involving distracted driving.
There are many ways drivers are distracted that factor into the causes of car crashes. Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the road, even for a second, can have devastating consequences. It’s important to take steps to ensure you are not distracted as a driver, or to help ensure the driver of the car in which you are a passenger is not distracted.
Younger people in particular need to be aware of these risks, as they are statistically more likely to be in a crash involving distracted driving.
In this blog, we’ll cover some of the most common causes of driver distraction that do NOT involve a cell phone but can result in a crash.
Talking to other passengers is, even above using your cell phone, the biggest cause of distracted driving which results in car accidents. Surprised? Don’t be. Conversations, arguments with passengers—all that talking takes the driver’s mind and attention away from the road. Whether you’re telling the kids not to fight with each other or discussing finances or vacation plans with your partner, what seems like idle and harmless chit-chat is actually taking important focus away from the most important object—the road ahead.
When possible, keep conversation to a minimum, and pay extra attention to what is going on around you and ahead of you on the road if you are engaged in conversation.
TECH IN YOUR CAR
Tuning the stereo, manipulating CDs, adjusting the radio volume, adjusting temperature controls, mirrors, trip calculators, cruise control — all of these can contribute to the driver doing the most dangerous thing … taking their eyes off the road for a few seconds. Even a couple of seconds of inattention, or looking but not “seeing” as the mind is occupied with what the hands are doing, are enough to put you at risk of an accident.
To minimize risk, ask passengers for help in making these adjustments, or, when driving alone, wait until you’ve come to a stop to make adjustments whenever possible. Driver comfort is important, but the risk is great in making these changes while driving.
EATING OR DRINKING
Sometimes, eating and drinking while on the road can’t be avoided. Whenever possible, it’s best for many reasons to stop and have your meal while parked and sitting, preferably in a rest stop or restaurant. It’s better for your digestion, your state of mind, and your general nutrition—after all, it’s pretty impossible to eat a salad while driving.
The manipulations of various food and drink items are a big contributor to distracting the driver and can lead to an accident. Something as simple as eating an ice cream cone can result in disaster. Looking at the cone, dealing with the drips, and peeling off the wrapper can take your eyes off the road for what can be crucial seconds.
If an accident hasn’t happened to you yet and you eat and drink in the car all the time, count yourself lucky, but don’t push your luck. Stop for that drink, stretch your legs, have a sit-down meal, and save lives.
USING THE GPS OR NAVIGATION SYSTEM
Drivers can take more than 50% of their attention off the road when manipulating a GPS device or navigation system, whether on a separate unit or as an app in a cellular phone. This is a staggering statistic, and a huge risk that every driver should be aware of.
Plug in your destination before you begin moving; if and when you need to change directions or find nearby options such as a restaurant or coffee shop along the journey, pull off the road or, at the very least, least pull over, before manipulating the GPS system.
HANDS FREE DOESN’T MEAN SAFE: TALK-TO-TEXT
Many drivers mistakenly believe that “hands-free” use of the cell phone while driving makes it eminently safer. It does not. Using talk-to-text features, or voice-enabled actions with the phone such as posting to social media sites or googling information, is a major distraction for the driver. The “It can wait” initiative, fostered by telephone provider AT&T, urges drivers to consider waiting to send that text, even with voice-to-text, or to post to or read emails, social media postings, etc. Thousands upon thousands of people have been injured or killed because a driver was interacting with their cell phone. It can wait.
Raising your awareness about the most common causes of these crashes is an important first step. Taking steps to curb or eliminate them is the next, and it’s up to you, whether you are the driver or a passenger in someone else’s vehicle.
If you are involved in an accident where distracted driving was a factor, contact the Law Office of Jeff Green for a free consultation.