According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,140 Americans died because of distracted drivers in 2019. About 424,000 people were injured in accidents in the same year. Nine people die in this country every day because of reported accidents involving distracted drivers.
Understanding the implications of distracted driving can save lives. Here are five important facts to know.
1. Young Adults and Adolescents Most At Risk
Across all age groups, young adult and adolescent drivers tend to be most in danger of experiencing impaired driving. Regarding the killer driving distractions in 2019, a higher percentage of drivers aged between 15 and 20 who were distracted than drivers who were at least 21 years old. Among younger drivers, 9% are distracted when they get into an accident.
In a 2019 survey of highschool students in the US, 39% report having driven in the past 30 days when texting or emailing.
Students who said they texted or emailed while behind the wheel were also more likely to report other transportation-related risk behaviors. For example, they’re more likely to report not at all times wearing a seat belt, and they’re more likely to report driving after drinking alcohol.
2. There Are Three Kinds of Disorders
When you are driving, anything that will distract you from being behind the wheel is a distraction. These can be grouped into three different categories.
Visual distractions are when you take your eyes off the road. Manual distraction means you take your hands off the wheel, and cognitive distraction is anything that takes your mind off driving.
If you are traveling at 55 mph, reading or texting is the same as driving the length of a football field but your eyes are closed while you are doing it.
3. Cell phones are the biggest distraction
The federal government estimates that about 7.9% of drivers use a hands-free or hands-free phone at any time of day.
Surveys show the rate of drivers texting or using handheld devices during the day has more than doubled from 2011.
People who use their cell phones more while driving are often related to being more risky drivers in other areas. For example, in a study from the IIHSdrivers who spend the most time behind the wheel interacting with their phones have the highest accident and near-collision rates.
In a study conducted on the road, drivers who reported frequent use of their cell phones changed lanes more often, drove faster, and braked harder than drivers who said they barely used them while driving.
Almost all the experimental studies that have been conducted so far using driving simulators show that driver performance is affected by cognitive impairment stemming from telephonic tasks. In an analysis of 28 experimental studies, typing or reading text significantly slowed reaction time, increased the length of time drivers looked away from the road, and increased lane deviation.
Using a cellular phone can even affect how drivers scan and then process what’s happening on the road. A driver usually takes their eyes off the road to use the phone. Drivers who are engaged in conversation will tend to keep their eyes on the center of the road, but their attention is still not fully on the driving, making it tougher to process what they’re seeing.
Researchers have found brain activity related to attention and processing are suppressed when the driver is cognitively impaired. Cognitive impairment can cause something called inattention blindness. Inattentional blindness is when a driver is unable to process or understand information on the road even although they’re looking directly at it.
4. Other Causes of Distracted Driving
While phone and SMS are the main ones reason for distracted drivingthere are others too.
Other major distractions include:
- GPS—we’re used to relying on GPS to get us from one place to the next. However, setting your GPS route while driving is just as dangerous as texting. If you will use a GPS, you should mount it in front of you where you can easily see it. You should turn up the volume so you can hear directions rather than having to keep looking at the screen.
- Adjust the controls—whether it is music or the temperature, adjusting anything in your car distracts you from driving. No matter how insignificant it may seem, even a split second of inattention can increase the risk of an accident.
- Make-up and grooming—if you use your commute to do makeup or do any kind of make-up, you may be endangering yourself and others on the road.
- Talking to people in the car—whether it is your friends, your spouse, or your kids if you are in the car with other people, you’ll likely be talking to them. That’s normal, but you even have to remember that the first precedence is to focus on your driving.
- Zoning—if you daydream while driving, particularly on a long road trip or when you are on a familiar route, you may realize that you have traveled miles without even thinking about what is going on, and that is dangerous.
5. Distracted Driving Can Be Avoided
While distracted driving is a major risk in the US and can be deadly, it’s also something that can be avoided and is essentially within your control. You cannot control other drivers, but if you pay attention and avoid distractions, you will be better able to maneuver around dangerous drivers or avoid difficult situations.
When you are behind the wheel, you may not use your phone. If you have an emergency, pull over. Remember that even a hands-free phone can still cause you to miss cues you need to avoid damage, including visual and auditory cues.
If you are tired, get out of the way. Limit the number of passengers you have in the car at any given time.
Do not eat or drink while you’re driving, and never multi-task when you’re behind the wheel.