According to information provided by Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, in 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, while an estimated 416,000 were injured in automobile accidents involving a distracted driver. These alarming numbers are causing a major focus on texting while driving, yet there are a number of other ways a driver can become distracted when they are behind the wheel.
Driving distractions can be broken down into three main types:
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
Manual distractions may occur when you are talking on the phone, changing the radio station, or searching for something in your purse or car. They may also happen if you are attempting to use your phone, eat or drink in the car while you are driving. Just having one hand off the wheel can place you at a disadvantage if you have a split second to react to a sudden change in traffic.
Visual distraction is typically what most people think of when they hear the words “distracted driving.” This happens when you’re looking away to text, using your phone, talking to friends, or looking anywhere else but the road while driving.
Cognitive distraction is the hardest to combat because it is often difficult to take your mind off the stresses in your life. Intense emotions can cause your mind to wander long enough to miss what is happening on the road.
Here are some tips on how to avoid distracted driving:
- Don’t text or use your cellphone while driving.
- Don’t eat or drink while driving.
- Make sure you have directions to your destination before you begin driving.
- Adjust the radio, CD player or MP3 player with music before driving.
- Keep music levels low and talking with passengers to a minimum.
Distracted Driving Made Worse By Mobile Technology
“Distracted driving” is a practice that has been around since the invention of the automobile, but with the proliferation of electronic technology and the desire to be connected at all times, it is more dangerous now than ever. Drivers today have a wide range of devices that can potentially take their attention away from the road, including cell phones, smartphones, GPS navigation units, MP3 players and in-car DVD players. Devices like these have caused many drivers to take unacceptable risks with their own lives and the lives of others.
One of the most commonly criticized forms of distracted driving is texting while driving. Studies have shown texting while driving to be even more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. A study from 2009 shows that 16% of auto accident fatalities resulted from distracted driving, adding up to well over 5,000 deaths across the United States. In 2011, a study estimated distracted driving was responsible for up to 30% of recent car crashes. With statistics like these, it is easy to see why distracted driving due to technology is becoming more and more of a concern.
What is the best way to avoid distracted driving? Here are some tips:
- Don’t make or take phone calls while driving. Even if you can keep your eyes on the road, studies show that being involved in a conversation can distract your brain from the task at hand. This is true even with hands-free mobile devices.
- Do not read or send any text messages while driving. If you feel like you need help breaking yourself of this habit, consider installing an anti-texting app in your family’s phones. This can disable your phone’s ability to send or receive texts when it senses that you’re in a moving vehicle.
- Make the decision to refrain from all types of distracted driving, including eating or drinking while driving. If necessary, make a pact with your family and friends, or purposely put electronic devices out of reach while driving to avoid temptation.
- Support awareness campaigns that are against distracted driving, and let your state and local city leaders know you support bills banning texting while driving.
Distracted Driving Education
It wasn’t too long ago when drivers had to stop to use pay phones to let others know their whereabouts. Now about 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and about 30% of those owners describe this technological advancement as an item they simply cannot live without (Pew Research Center).
This statistic has many drivers’ safety organizations alarmed. Despite heavy objections through public service announcements, news reports, studies and statistics, many people continue to use their cell phones while driving. To help increase awareness of how cell phone usage while driving IS a driving distraction, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered up with Lytx to deliver a series of dash cam views of how a simple text or phone call can cause vehicle drifting, near accidents with quick reactions and actual impacts with other vehicles or objects. AAA mainly focused on teen drivers and established that driver distractions are a factor in 60% of teen driver crashes. We do warn those with sensitive stomachs that the reality of these scenes are quite jolting. However, thankfully, in these instances no one was seriously injured.
The harsh reality is not every accident is a near miss. Distracted driving can cause severe accidents that may even include fatalities. In Oklahoma in late February, a highway trooper lost his life to a distracted driver updating his Facebook status. Trooper Dees was out of his vehicle, controlling traffic and trying to warn drivers of an overturned semi in the road. Lieutenant John Vincent of Oklahoma Highway Patrol removed the gruesome seconds of the video that he had to watch for himself for the investigation (and wished he didn’t have to) before releasing to the media to protect the family and loved ones of Trooper Dees from seeing the impact.
Many states are making the move toward making texting while driving illegal. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as of right now, only Montana and Arizona do not have any bans for texting while driving. Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri have partial bans on texting, and all remaining U.S. states have laws in effect to prevent drivers from texting and driving. In contrast, only select West Coast and North East states have an all-mobile device ban for all drivers. There is still progress to be made to make cell phone usage while driving illegal and punishable by law.
Despite Arizona’s late progress to being more forceful for distracted driving, many cell phone related accidents still occur. In fact, according to Scripps Media, Inc. one Arizona family is working with Arizona State Senator Steve Farley to get a texting law on the books.
How To Change Distracted Driving Habits
Here at SGP Law, we take distracted driving very seriously. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have investigated and sought justice for those whose lives were severely physically damaged or tragically lost due to a negligent driver. We urge everyone to be aware of every driving distraction. C
Many auto collisions are caused by distracted driving. There were many deadly collisions caused by various factors throughout in recent weekends, including an accident where a van collided with a parked semi-truck after failing to slow for traffic (ABC 15). While not all of these accidents were the result of distracted driving, many drivers habitually drive while distracted, putting their own lives and the lives of other drivers at risk. Distracted driving is any activity that involves averting your eyes from the road. Many activities, such as texting or eating while driving, are done out of habit, but are nonetheless very dangerous.
Many self-help experts say to form or break a habit, it can generally take about 21 days. Consider the following tips from the personal injury lawyers at SGP Law to help you break your distracted driving habit.
Teach Yourself to Leave Your Phone Alone
If texting or talking on the phone is your weakness while driving, there are some options to break the habit. AT&T and many cell phone carriers participate in no texting pledges. The most recent and potentially effective campaign is the hashtag #X. The hashtag is an easy way to let friends know that you’re getting behind the wheel and won’t be texting while driving.
Drivers may find it easy to lock the phone in a purse and put it in the backseat or trunk while they’re driving. This helps keep the phone out of reach and unable to be accessed if an “oh-so-important” text, email or call comes in. You can also utilize storage compartments in the vehicle to keep the phone out of sight while driving. It is best if the compartment is out of immediate reach, so the phone stays out of sight and out of mind.
Save the Last Bite
If your bad distracted driving habit is eating while driving, remind yourself that the food is a reward to enjoy thoroughly once you’ve arrived at your destination. Convince yourself that as you eat while driving, you are not able to experience all the flavors as well as you could when you’re stable and not affected by a seatbelt, air conditioner cooling or dripping sauces. Driving Tip: Put the food on the floor either on passenger side or in back seat to keep the food out of immediate reach. Some life-hacks include using a plastic snapping container to house the food to avoid any large spills.
Double Check All Straps
If you are traveling with kids or pets, make sure they are strapped in correctly and appropriately for their height. Any loose strap can mean chaos if the child or pet gets free and decides to move around while you’re driving. Take the extra time to double check all fasteners.
Also, if loud kids or pets are a problem while driving, instead of elevating your voice to keep the peace, turn on gentle classical music to help reduce the stress level and any loud noises. This will calm both you and others down until you can safely park to address any problems.
Avoid High Blood Pressure Driving
If other drivers’ irrational actions cause an issue, consider taking a longer route home by using any alternate routes to help you calm down. Even just getting off the freeway for one exit then re-entering means there is a time and speed gap between the other driver and you.
Common Distractions While Driving
According to the United States Government, distracted driving is defined as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from driving. All distractions pose a potential threat to occupants of the vehicle, other vehicles, and pedestrians. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed in its latest study that a tenth of the car crash-related fatalities that occurred between 2010 and 2011 were caused by distracted driving. In 2012 alone, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected car accidents and an estimated 421,000 people were injured. The NHTSA also estimates that at all times there are approximately 660,000 American drivers using electronic devices while driving.
According to the law enforcement reports filed, here are the top ten distractions that will cause an accident:
- Daydreaming: The NHTSA reports that 62 percent of distraction-related fatalities were caused by a driver who was lost in thought.
- Electronics Use: Unsurprisingly, talking on the cell phone, dialing, and texting and controlling audio from a phone or MP3 player played heavily in distracted-driving cases. According to the NHTSA, 12 percent of fatal accidents caused by distracted-driving had cell phone usage to blame. On average, texting causes the driver’s eyes to leave the road for 4.6 seconds. If the vehicle is traveling at 65 miles per hour, the speed limit on most Arizona freeways, it can travel 438 feet before the driver looks at the road again – enough to cause a serious accident. At the present, no state bans all forms of cell phone use while driving, although 41 states prohibit texting while driving.
- Distraction from an outside source: 7 percent of distracted-driving fatality cases were caused by a driver’s distraction by an outside person, object or event.
- Distraction inside the vehicle: 5 percent of these accidents were caused by the driver interacting with, and becoming distracted by, other occupants of the vehicle.
- Reaching for things: 2 percent of distracted-driving fatalities were accounted for by drivers who took their eyes off the road to reach for something in the vehicle, such as a phone or GPS device.
- Adjusting the audio or temperature: Messing with the radio or thermostat caused 2 percent of all distraction-related accidents with fatalities between 2010 and 2011, and continues to be a fairly distracting activity. We recommend waiting for the next red light to adjust anything in the vehicle or simply setting everything to its ideal position before leaving the driveway.
- Eating/Drinking: The NHTSA estimates that 2 percent of all fatal distracted-driving accidents were caused by eating or drinking while driving.
- Smoking: Activities involving or related to smoking (lighting the cigarette, using the ashtray) resulted in 1 percent of the distracted-driving accidents with fatalities in 2010 and 2011.
- Making adjustments: Things like adjusting the seat, steering wheel, side mirrors and the in-dash navigation system were listed as making up 1 percent of all fatal distracted-driving accidents.
- Animals: The final 1 percent of distracted-driver related accidents that resulted in a fatality was reportedly caused by unrestrained pets and insects that had become trapped in the vehicle.
It’s not a secret that Mesaph and its surrounding cities see higher traffic congestion in the winter months than in the summer months. The combination of having more drivers in town due to their winter homes, increased stress and impatience, and an increased amount of holiday-related errands to run, makes for more dangerous conditions than usual. The 2013 traffic accident statistics for Arizona have not yet been released, but we do know that there were 103,637 auto accidents in 2012, and the most common cause of accidents was inappropriate speed. 34,000 people were killed in an accident, and an estimated 2.3 million people were injured.
This increase in annual traffic accidents is evidence of a worrying trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2008 that driver distraction was the cause of 16 percent of all fatal crashes – 5,800 people killed – and 21 percent of crashes resulting in an injury (515,000 people wounded). Most of what qualified as a “driver distraction” was mobile device usage while driving. Cell phones are one of those technologies that we would all probably hesitate to part with, yet our inability to put them away while driving is a dangerous habit that causes serious problems.
A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that the act of reaching for or dialing a cell phone while driving made the chance of an auto accident seven times more likely than when driving without distractions. Sending and receiving text messages while driving increased the risk of getting into an accident four times over. Clearly, mobile devices are not going away any time soon, which means that the temptation to use these devices while driving is always present. Only twelve states have banned the use of mobile devices while driving, though forty one states have taken steps to ban texting while driving. Unfortunately, Arizona is not one of those states. This means that, even if you are not using a phone while driving, someone else might be, and by doing so is putting everyone on the road at risk.
Obviously, you can’t keep others from doing dangerous things, but you can hold yourself and your family accountable with safe driving practices. Here are a few tips to hold yourself accountable when it comes to cell phone use and how to use a mobile device safely in the car, if you must use it at all.
- Many smartphones and newer vehicles can sync information wirelessly so that you never have to touch your device while driving. Even if your car is too old for this kind of technology, most phones have driving modes that turn text to speech and allow you to control the phone’s functions verbally. If you are waiting on a message, put your phone into driving mode so that messages can be read out loud when they come in and you can respond to the text message verbally. If you must take a call, use a Bluetooth headset and keep both hands on the wheel.
- Keep your phone in a place where you can reach it in an emergency, but not where it can move freely around the vehicle. All loose items in a car become deadly projectiles in an accident.
- If you must talk on the phone, keep conversations short and pull over if you need to write anything down.
- Do not look at your phone while driving, especially in bad weather or while in traffic. Keep it hidden even while stopped at a stop light or while in a traffic jam.
- The best available option is to put the phone out of sight and reach, and leave it there until you exit the vehicle. There is nothing so important on your phone that is worth risking your life and the lives of those around you.
Whenever on the road, stay alert and attentive to your surroundings. Watch for anyone driving erratically so that you can get out of their way. Cell phone use while driving limits your awareness and divides your attention. When you are distracted, you cannot avoid dangerous situations as effectively, and you may yourself become a danger for other drivers to avoid. And if those drivers are on their cell phones as well, things may end very badly for all concerned.