It is amazing how much drivers do while they’re supposed to be focused on driving. Putting on makeup, eating a meal on-the-go or using a cell phone to either talk or text are not uncommon situations you can observe as you pull up next to someone. Our culture stresses the importance of efficiency and multi-tasking, but distracted driving can result in serious outcomes – even death.
Distracted Driving at a Glance
"For a driver talking on a cell phone, his or her reaction time is as much as it is for a driver who is legally drunk," Barb Devaney, R.N., UnityPoint Health trauma coordinator said. "Drivers who send or receive text messages focus their attention away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this is the same as driving the length of a football field while blindfolded."
Most drivers can probably define distracted driving (any activity that pulls a driver’s attention away from the task of driving) but they can also probably tell you a list of distracted driving behaviors they practice regularly. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving includes eating and drinking, talking to passengers and adjusting music settings, in addition to behaviors linked with technology, especially cell phones and/or cell phone capabilities – calling, texting, using a navigation system, watching videos and more.
All distractions behind the wheel are serious, but cell phones are at the center of the distracted driving discussion.
The National Safety Council estimates roughly 21 percent of crashes in the United States involved drivers using cell phones, and when drivers use a cell phone while driving, even hands-free, they are more than four times more likely to crash.
Distracted Driving Impacts Everyone
Distracted driving doesn't just impact teens, and older drivers shouldn’t assume their experience will keep them safe on the road. How parents and adults model behavior for children can set the standard early on about what is acceptable when driving.
"Age does play a factor, when looking at whether younger or older drivers are involved in motor vehicle crashes. Statistically, younger drivers account for more crashes and fatalities, but the distracted driving conversation should include both experienced and non-experienced drivers," Devaney said.
Here are 10 ways the Governors Highway Safety Association® recommends to manage distracted driving habits:
- Turn it off and put it away. Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode before start your car, and place it somewhere out of reach.
- Let others know. Set a message to let callers know you’re driving and will get back to them once you’ve arrived at your destination.
- Pull over. If your call or text can’t wait, pull over in a safe area to respond.
- Ask for assistance. If you have a passenger riding with you, have him or her answer a call or text on your behalf.
- No screen time. Texting (even voice-to-text), social media and emails all are dangerous. Don’t ever do these while driving.
- It’s the law. Know state and local laws, as some states prohibit texting and the use of hand-held phones.
- Know where you’re going. Review GPS navigation or written directions before you leave for your destination. If you need help while you’re behind the wheel, either have a passenger assist you or pull over to check a map or directions.
- Pet problems. Always secure your pets when taking them in the car.
- Family matters. Kids can also be a distraction. If a situation arises that needs to be immediately addressed, pull over before trying to handle.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Eating, drinking, reading, grooming and more all count as distractions.
Make the Choice Today
Using the “it won’t happen to me” mentality doesn’t solve the distracted driving problem. Make the choice today to pledge against distracted driving, and start driving distraction-free and phone-free. The responsibility for safer roads starts with us.