The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in a 2009 study that one in five car accidents causing injury involved some element of distracted driving and that 16% of all fatal automobile accidents also involved distracted driving.
Statistics show that diverting your eyes from the road for a mere two seconds increases your risk of collision twofold. The unfortunate reality is that most drivers who engage in distracted behaviors are actually losing sight of the road long enough to quadruple their risk of an accident. A report commissioned by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (PDF link) found that texting, whether it’s sending or receiving a message, takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. That’s the equivalent of driving blindfolded across the entire length of a football field at 55 miles per hour!
Although the dangers and incidents of distracted driving have been well-documented, this behavior continues to pose a serious problem on our roadways. Amongst the main distractors are cell phones, but a recent article from Our Kids showed out that cell phones are not the only culprits to distracted driving. Here are the top 5 distractors on the road:
Eating or Drinking — Here’s something to thwart your on-the-road urge to snack: a UK insurance provider commissioned a study confirming that snacking while driving is on par with using a cell phone. The report determined that, “the mental workload required to eat, drink and drive at the same time was significantly raised, indicating that drivers who consume en route have a greatly reduced ability to deal with other events.”
Passengers — Whether it’s turning around to talk to your kids or looking at the person sitting in your passenger seat, the NHTSA estimates that talking to passengers was the leading distraction in 7,000 crashes last year. While the research stated that passengers typically pose only a “cognitive” distraction, it’s still one of the most common causes of distracted driving.
Car stereos — Adjusting the radio has become such a common task while driving that few people know how big and dangerous of a distraction this act really is. Csaba Csere, editor of Car and Driver magazine urges drivers to remember that “…the most important safety factor is a competent driver paying attention to the task behind the wheel…Don’t tune the radio when you’re negotiating traffic in a complicated intersection.” An effective way to minimize, or possibly eliminate, this risk is to have preset radio stations. Of course, drivers should always exercise their common sense.
GPS Devices — They’re there to help you, but they can also do some major damage. Some studies suggest that any type of distraction is as dangerous as using a cell phone while driving. GPS devices require the same visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver as does using a cell phone, meaning that these navigation devices are potentially as dangerous as phones.
Cell phones — It’s no surprise that cell phones are the main cause of distracted driving, as there have been far too many publicized tragedies involving the use of cell phones while driving. Here’s a scary way to think of cell phones on the road: according to a study conducted by the University of Utah (PDF link), driving while using a cell phone, hands-free or not, has the same negative effect on a person’s reaction time as does a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, the legal limit.
While these five things are the leading causes of distracted driving, there are many other common behaviors that increase the risk of collision on the roadways. Some of these other distractions include smoking, grooming, dropping something, and even reading. While driving, no activity is more important than paying attention to the road ahead; eliminating unnecessary distractions can have a major positive impact on drivers’ overall safety.
Jason Arango is the Director of Community Outreach for GJEL Accident Attorneys.