It is impossible to operate any form of machinery while you do not commit your full attention to the task at hand. This includes when you get behind the wheel of a car or truck. Distracted driving is a factor in a majority of accidents, and the epidemic has grown worse with each passing year as we continue to come up with innovative ways of taking our attention off of the road. Phones, music players, tablets and other mobile devices allow us a portable way of remaining connected to each other, but drivers need to have the patience to wait until they arrive safely at their destination before reaching for these items.
The Staggering Statistics Behind Distracted Driving
We have all been guilty at some point of being tempted by some object in our vehicle that has diverted our focus from the road. Recent reports have revealed that every day in the United States, 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone. We see these people almost everywhere we go and may even become annoyed by their erratic or reckless driving. We may also find ourselves with the phone in hand on occasion.
In 2015, over 391,000 people were injured in car accidents involving one or more distracted drivers. 3,477 people died of their injuries. Teenagers continue to be the most distracted segment of the driving population, and their inexperience behind the wheel coupled with their divided attention puts them at grave risk.
When someone takes his or her eyes off of the road to answer a phone call or return a text message, they travel 100 yards every five seconds at a speed of 55 mph. There is so much that may happen when covering that distance, from having a vehicle enter the road ahead, to needing to avoid an animal that has crossed your path or to having to stop because the driver ahead of you has slammed on his or her brakes.
How to Do Your Part in Preventing Distracted Driving
Everyone needs to educate one another on the perils of distracted driving and hold each other accountable so that they don’t become the next horror story. It is now against the law to use a cell phone unless using hands-free technology in most states. In addition to supporting these laws, there are some more things we can do to protect ourselves and those we love.
- Have discussions about distracted driving with your peers. Texting while driving is not just a teen issue. Adults are also participants in this type of behavior, and you have the power to remind them of what they risk when they send a text message from behind the wheel.
- Be an example. We need to practice what we preach to inspire our children and friends into action. Nobody appreciates a hypocrite, but more importantly, you will greatly reduce your own risk of an accident by reducing your own distractions.
- Have your teen children pledge not to drive while texting and encourage them to expect this pledge from their friends. Social pressure can be used positively when children encourage safe decision making and responsible behavior from one another.
- Create rules and enforce them. In addition to requiring the use of safety belts, make sure all occupants inside your vehicle put their phones away before you move. It isn’t just your own phone that can become a distraction. Some drivers may be distracted by their passengers’ actions as well. If you happen to be a passenger, be respectful and helpful by choosing not to become a distraction yourself.
State and local police are also doing their part by pulling drivers over when it is apparent they are distracted. While this will reduce the number of distracted drivers over time, it is not nearly as effective as policing our own families and being mindful of the fact that even though we may not be distracted behind the wheel, others will be. Defensive driving is yet another way we can protect ourselves and reduce the chances that we will become involved in a deadly accident.
The impairment caused by driving while using a phone or mobile device rivals that of drunkenness, so it is the time that we take this issue with the same level of seriousness. By supporting awareness initiatives and local laws, creating rules for our children, being positive role models and carrying the discussion on to our peers, we may just be able to make the roads a safer place to drive.
For more information, you can visit the NHSTA at www.nhtsa.gov to learn more about the dangers of distracted driving and how you can make a difference in the effort to address this concern.