According to a recent article in US News & World Report, reading emails and texting are at the top of the list of what’s considered distracted driving, but there are a number of things we do while driving that are not safe or smart. Eating, personal grooming, and reaching back to referee an argument between the kids can distract us long enough for something terrible to happen. Despite the increasing availability of safety features like automatic braking, lane departure, and blind spot monitoring, distracted driving is a growing cause in accidents.
AAA reports that 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2013 involved distracted driving – more than 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries – roughly the same as those due to driving under the influence. In 2014, distracted driving killed 3,179 people in the U.S., and injured 431,000 more.
All too many of those deaths are teens and other new drivers, who are both inexperienced behind the wheel and more comfortable with using smart phones than their parents.
According to a recent report by the Liberty Mutual insurance company, teens consider navigation and music apps as “utilities,” which weakens their awareness of the dangers related to the use of smart phones while driving. While 41 percent of teens responding to the survey state that using navigation apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, 58 percent admit to using them on the road. More teens (64 percent) say using music apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, but nearly half (46 percent) still admit to using them in the car. Some auto makers are trying to help potential buys cut down on these distractions. The new Ford Sync and GM MyLink systems have parental controls that prevent the vehicle from operating until passenger seat belts are buckled, limit vehicle speed, and limit the maximum volume from the audio system.
In another distracted driving study, by Netquote, more drivers admitted to picking their noses while driving (65.9 percent) than admitted to reading something on a device (59.9 percent) or texting (53.8 percent). The same survey by Netquote also shows more of us admit to eating in the car (51.9 percent) or putting on or taking off clothing (43.1 percent) than kissing (42.7 percent. The study also shows drivers behind the wheel admitted to the following: applying make-up or deodorant (20.0 percent), flossing our teeth (7.1 percent), tweezing our eyebrows or facial hair (4.6 percent), shaving our faces or legs (2.8 percent), and putting in contact lenses (2.6 percent). That same survey of more than 2,000 U.S. drivers also asked about other bad driving habits, such as driving with a suspended license (13.6 percent), driving without insurance (27.8 percent), and driving before you have a license or permit (33.6 percent). It’s also astounding to note that nearly half the respondents (46.8 percent) admitted to driving drunk or “buzzed,” since about one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. in any given year are alcohol-related.
Here are some practical and helpful suggestions for you to avoid being a distracted driver and inspire you to become a better and more aware motorist:
1. AVOID EVEN HANDS-FREE TECHNOLOGY WHEN YOU’RE BEHIND THE WHEEL.
According to one study, after you’re finished making voice commands, you’ll stay distracted from the road for up to 27 seconds as you get back into your driving groove. As a result, you might not notice signs, other vehicles, or pedestrians.
2. AMERICA’S ROADS ARE FILLED WITH DISTRACTED DRIVERS.
Even if you’re paying attention to the road, keep in mind that individuals in the cars surrounding you might not be as in-tune with their surroundings. In other words, stay cautious!
3. MUSIC CAN DISTRACT YOU WHILE DRIVING …
In an Israeli study of 85 teens, young drivers who played their preferred songs at top volume made way more mistakes while maneuvering a vehicle. Meanwhile, adolescents that listened to mellow genres they hadn’t chosen themselves, like easy listening, soft rock, and light jazz, showed a 20 percent decrease in errors and miscalculations.
4. YOUR MOOD CAN AFFECT YOUR DRIVING.
Researchers who studied 1600 crash events over a three-year timespan found that drivers who were noticeably sad, angry, or upset ended up increasing their risk of an accident by nearly 10 times.
5. EATING WHILE DRIVING DRAMATICALLY INCREASES YOUR ACCIDENT ODDS.
People who eat while driving or drink beverages on the road increase their odds of an accident by 80 percent.
6. REST STOPS HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED WHILE DRIVING.
In 2011, one hospital study found that having to go to the bathroom badly while driving impairs your judgment and focus similarly to if you were cruising along with a 0.05 blood-alcohol level. Plus, many states are now creating “safe phone zones”-a safe place off the roadways where drivers can check emails, make calls, and view texts
7. IT’S SAFER TO KEEP YOUR STUFF IN THE FRONT SEAT THAN THE BACK SEAT.
According to one recent study, reaching behind you to grab gear makes you nine times more likely to have a car accident.
8. DISTRACTED DRIVING IS ESPECIALLY DEADLY AMONG TEENS.
According to government statistics, 10 percent of all drivers (ages 15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes.
9. DISTRACTED DRIVING IS DANGEROUS WHEN PARENTS DRIVE WITH THEIR CHILDREN.
One Australian study found that the average parent actually takes their eyes off the road for 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute car trip with a kid.
10. TEXTING WHILE DRIVING KILLS MORE TEENS THAN DRINKING AND DRIVING.
The leading cause of death for teenage drivers is texting-not drinking. According to a 2013 report, nearly a dozen adolescents died each day in a texting-related accident.
11. PARENTS CAN TEACH TEENS TO NOT ENGAGE IN DISTRACTED DRIVING.
Since teens’ prefrontal cortexes-the region of the brain that’s used in good decision making-aren’t fully developed, some psychologists say that it’s up to parents to make sure their children don’t engage in distracted driving. They recommend for adults to instruct adolescents to put their phones in their car trunks (or another hard-to-reach place), and to also monitor cell phone records and texting histories to make sure their kids aren’t using their mobile devices on the road.
If you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of an car accident where a distracted driver was the culprit, contact us at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation at (850)659-2252 or through our website at brannoncanhelp.com.