Americans are accustomed to multitasking, but it’s vital to know when it’s appropriate and when it is dangerous. While driving, it’s essential for the driver to pay close attention to his or her vehicle, the road ahead, and changing road conditions. Distracted driving refers to drivers attempting to multitask while driving. This can include adjusting the car stereo or air conditioning, rummaging through the vehicle for something, applying cosmetics, using a cell phone, or simply not paying enough attention.
Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,450 fatalities in 2016 alone caused by distracted driving. While a driver may assume it’s safe to take his or her eyes off the road for just a few seconds, a lot can happen in a few seconds, and the vehicle can travel hundreds of feet in that time, depending on speed. At 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for five seconds is the equivalent of driving blind for the length of a football field.
Visual distraction is not the only type of distraction that can impede safe driving. Three main types of distraction may occur behind the wheel, including:
Police activity on the side of the road, a car accident, or anything that causes a driver to divert his or her eyes from the road is a visual distraction.
These distractions require a driver to remove his or her hands from the steering wheel and shifter. This can include adjusting the stereo, typing a text message, eating, or drinking behind the wheel.
When a driver’s mind is preoccupied with things other than driving, such as an impending social event, a stressful day at work, or an emotional experience, the driver is more likely to fail to notice changing road conditions as they arise.
Ultimately, any type of distraction behind the wheel has the potential to cause catastrophic damage, however, the most dangerous distraction for drivers is cell phone use. Virtually every American adult uses a cell phone in some capacity, and texting behind the wheel has become a major problem. The NHTSA estimates that around 481,000 drivers use their cell phones behind the wheel during daylight hours. Teens are statistically most likely to engage in distracting behaviors while driving.
Texting While Driving
One of the most dangerous distractions is texting behind the wheel. Carrying on a text conversation requires the driver’s attention and for him or her to use his or her hands to operate the phone and his or her eyes to read and write messages. Texting behind the wheel encompasses all three of the major types of distractions.
While many Americans rely on text messaging daily for professional and personal reasons, it’s vital to refrain from texting while driving, even if you intend to only send a short message or read a recently received message. If you experience concern about an emergency, pull over or park safely before using your cell phone. A good best practice is to put your cell phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving, if possible. This will prevent the ringer or vibration from triggering when you receive a message and you can simply check your phone safely once you reach your destination.
You can avoid distracted driving accidents by refraining from cell phone use and other distracting activities behind the wheel. Many states also have specific laws in place concerning distracted driving and specifically texting while driving, so avoiding the practice can help prevent legal penalties like fines or points on your driver’s license. While you cannot control other driver’s actions, you can still make a positive impact and prevent future distracted driving accidents by paying close attention to your vehicle and the road ahead while behind the wheel.
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