Pay Attention: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Think that you can multi-task while behind the wheel? Would you bet your life on it? April is designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council. In this article, we’ll discuss the different kinds of distracted driving, look at some of the cold, hard facts behind the dangers, and provide you with expert tips to avoid distraction when on the road.
What is Distracted Driving?
When most people hear the term “distracted driving” they think of someone talking on their cell phone, or texting while behind the wheel. While those are certainly some of the most prevalent examples of distracted driving, they are not the only forms.
EndDD.org breaks down distracted driving into 3 main categories:
Manual Distractions – Those where you move your hands away from the wheel, such as texting or eating
Visual Distractions – Those where you focus your eyes away from the road, such as rubbernecking while passing an accident
Cognitive Distractions – Where your mind wanders away from the task of driving, such as driving while drowsy
Many examples of distracted driving will overlap categories, thus making it even more dangerous. For example, texting while driving covers all 3 categories. Your hands are removed from the wheel, your eyes are focused on your phone, and your mind is busy reading or crafting your reply.
Distracted Driving By the Numbers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving accounted for 10% of motor vehicle fatalities, and 16% of motor vehicle crashes resulting in injuries in 2015. During any given day, the NHTSA estimates that an astounding 660,000 drivers utilize electronic devices while behind the wheel.
How does cell phone use one’s ability to drive? According to research conducted by the University of Utah, talking on a cell phone while driving results in a similar level of impairment as that of someone with a .08% blood-alcohol content. The study went on the conclude that cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to be involved in a crash than undistracted drivers.
Texting while driving is even more dangerous, with an increased risk of crash or near-crash 23 times higher than undistracted drivers according to the Virginia Technical Transportation Institute. With the NHTSA reporting that sending or reading a text message takes a drivers eyes off of the road for an average of 5 seconds, that means that drivers are essentially traveling blind for over 400 feet when traveling at 55mph.
But what about other forms of distracted driving?
Drowsy driving has been gaining more attention recently, and for good reason. As stated in our article Drowsy Driving: It’s Time to Wake Up, missing 2-3 hours of sleep can actually quadruple a driver’s crash risk according to AAA. Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation reported that being awake for 18 straight hours is comparable to an individual having a .05% BAC, and being awake for 24 straight hours is comparable to an individual having a .10% BAC.
And don’t think that just because a manufacturer includes a piece of equipment in a vehicle, that it’s safe to use while driving. Vehicle infotainment systems are one of the most overlooked culprits of distracted driving. Recent research by AAA claims that the complexity of today’s infotainment systems pose a serious danger to drivers. The study reported that programing information, such as an address into the vehicle’s GPS, distracts drivers for an average of 40 seconds.
Be sure to check back next week where we will discuss some suggestions from industry experts to help you get to your destination safely.