Accidents on the road may be a partially solvable problem – especially if we consider that 90 percent of all accidents on the road are attributed to human error. It is obvious that traffic safety programs must pay more attention to how the person is going to react in certain situations, not just whether new drivers are capable of handling a car.
We must promote good behavior
Bad driving behavior makes up the majority of the road accidents. For example:
- Driving through a red light
- Driving on the hard shoulder
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving recklessly
If we were able to change the behavior, it is possible to reduce the number of fatal accidents drastically. Of course, there might always be mechanical failures or other negligent drivers, but it is far more important to adjust our own behavior and see the difference. From 1999–2008, the percentage of highway fatalities in the United States linked to distracted driving increased from 10.9 to 15.8.
Modern living provides a number of distractions
Even though most people enjoy being able to text their friends and family members at all time, it is important to remember that even a temporary distraction may have disastrous consequences. Even well-meaning drivers who understand the risk of being distracted while driving might feel ‘temporarily seduced’ by the available technology. This means that education alone is not sufficient.
There are new types of distractions that pose an immediate danger. For example, many of the iPhone and Android apps available are made to use while driving a car. Drivers might even use apps that are not expressly designed for use while driving.
The problem with the majority of studies
It might be even more challenging to determine what effects specific smartphone tasks have on driving performance. Because the majority of distracted driving studies are experimental, it often means that we have relatively small volunteer samples and both the phone tasks and driving behavior are controlled by the researcher, not the driver. This means that it might be next impossible to generalize these findings when these drivers are using their own vehicles and using their own phones.
Finally, it is important to remember that distracted driving is not reliably reported. One of the main reasons that police crash reports might not help in understanding the severity of the problem. Few drivers are going to tell law enforcement officials that they rear-ended someone because they were too busy Facebooking on their iPhone.
What needs to change in the future?
When it comes to attentive driving, we need to focus on countermeasures to distracted driving. Whereas drivers have always had to deal with the occasional distraction, these distractions now compete full time for a driver’s attention.
It is important to have renewed respect for our responsibilities as drivers and to the actual task of driving. Despite the fact that the car has become an American symbol for freedom and mobility, it is important to remember that driving at 65 mph’s in a 2-ton vehicle does require focus. It is time to put the focus back where it belongs and take driving seriously.