April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a month dedicated to spreading awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day more than nine people are killed and 1,153 people are injured due to distracted driving. While technological advancements and new vehicle safety features are introduced every day, it is up to you, the driver, to ensure you are driving safely and free of any distractions.
Driving distractions can fall in one or more of four categories:
- Visual – A driver takes his or her eyes off the road and physically looks at something else (Reading a text message, turning to look at a passenger, reading a billboard, etc.).
- Cognitive – A driver’s attention is split between the road and their mental load (Worrying about work, family issues, battling with depression or anxiety, conversing with passengers, etc.).
- Manual – A driver takes one or both hands off the steering wheel (Text messaging, handing objects to children in the back seat, changing the radio station, eating a snack, etc.).
- Auditory – Sounds are present that distract drivers from focusing on the road (Crying children, loud music, phone notifications, etc.).
When most people think about distracted driving, they automatically think of cell phone usage. Indeed, according to the NHTSA, 13 percent of crashes involving a fatality were linked to cell phone usage while driving. Checking an incoming text message or glancing at your phone to make a call may only take a few seconds, but the amount of damage that can be done in those few seconds is significant. In fact, it only takes five seconds for a vehicle traveling 55 mph to travel the distance of a football field. A lot can happen when a driver’s eyes are on their phone instead of the road while covering that distance.
Many argue that with the increase of hands-free speaking devices, their eyes never leave the road and are therefore safe to use. However, visual distractions are only a portion of the problem. Mental distractions are something nearly every driver combats. Cognitive distractions like thinking about a project at work, dwelling over family/friend drama, and even considering what to make for dinner can all divert attention from driving. According to Automotive Fleet Magazine, “Studies show that distracted drivers will, on average, only see and recognize 50 percent of the cars on the road with them.”
Here are some statistics from the NHTSA to consider before allowing yourself to drive distracted:
- A driver is 23 times more likely to crash or experience a near-crash while text messaging.
- More than 58 percent of crashes involving a teen driver can be associated with distracted driving.
- Drivers who text on the road spend 10 percent of their driving time outside their own lane.
- People who text while driving are six times more likely to crash than drivers who are over the legal blood alcohol limit.
- About one of every five people killed by distracted drivers in 2018 were pedestrians.
- One in five fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver, and drivers aged 16 to 24 are most at risk.
These statistics are certainly alarming, but they are also preventable. Before you start your vehicle, ask yourself what potential distractions you could face on the road. Adjust your vehicle’s temperature, find the correct radio station and volume level, silence your phone and put it out of reach, and mentally prepare to devote your full attention to driving. Proceed to your route only when you have eliminated potential distractions. Additionally, should a potentially distracting situation present itself, find a safe place to pull over so you can address the issue before getting back on the road. Thousands of lives can be saved if every driver does their part to decrease distracted driving. To learn more about National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, visit EndDD.org.