The Dangers Of Distracted Automobile Driving
Whenever a person's attention is pulled away from driving, either by other activities or thoughts, he or she is guilty of distracted driving. This is a very common occurrence that is associated with a number of dangers, such as losing control of the vehicle or failing to see objects or hear warning signs that may prevent a crash. With the popularity of cell phones and technology, such as texting, distracted driving has become an even greater problem. It is, however, preventable. People can avoid distracted driving and its associated dangers by recognizing what actions put them and others at risk and making an effort to stop engaging in them.
Types of Distraction
There are three basic types of distraction that can affect a person who is driving a vehicle. These distractions are cognitive, visual or manual. When driving, a manual distraction is one that takes one or both of the driver's hands off of the steering wheel while he or she is driving. A visual distraction is a distraction in which a person stops looking at the road while driving. When there is a cognitive distraction, the driver is no longer mentally focused on the act of driving. These distractions may happen only briefly, for a matter of seconds or longer. Even short distractions, however, can result in a fatal accident or in an accident that seriously injures someone.
- National Safety Council: Cognitive Distraction (PDF)
- Introduction: Distracted Driving, Talking & Texting Index & Overview
- Governor's Highway Safety Association – Distracted Driving (PDF)
Sources of Distraction
Cell phones and text messaging are two of the greatest sources of distraction when a person is driving. Hands-free cellphone usage is a type of cognitive distraction, while holding a cellphone is both a manual and a cognitive distraction. When people text, however, they are at the greatest risk of being distracted as it involves all three types of distraction. A person not only looks at their text, but they use their hands to type and they are mentally focused on what they are typing. With this level of distraction the driver is at a greater risk of hitting another vehicle or pedestrian and causing injury to themselves, their passengers or the other party. Not only does texting distract the driver in these three ways, but these distractions tend to last longer than other things that may distract him or her. In addition to talking on the phone and texting, other sources of distraction include eating while driving, talking and interacting with passengers in the vehicle, applying makeup, or attempting to read a map or other object while behind the wheel. Operating in-vehicle systems such as navigational controls or the sound system may also prove distracting.
- Driving Distractions - Don't be a Statistic
- Mount Ida College - Distracted Driving Awareness (PDF)
- Traditional Driving Distractions are Also a Problem
Who is at Risk
Anyone who drives a car can potentially become distracted if he or she does not make a conscious effort to stay focused on driving only. Younger drivers, under the age of twenty, are often the most likely to get into an accident while distracted. One of the reasons for this is a lack of experience behind the wheel. Another reason is that younger drivers are more likely to take chances, such as talking on their cellphones or texting while driving. Driving with their peers is also a great source of distraction for young drivers.
- Young Drivers Report the Highest Level of Phone Involvement in Crashes
- Distracted Driving and Young Workers
- CDC: Distracted Driving
Consequences, Dangers, and Statistics
Death, injury, and damage to property are just a few of the dangers associated with driving while distracted. A person who is driving without paying attention to other vehicles or how he or she is handling their own vehicle, runs the risk of hitting innocent bystanders who they fail to see due their distraction. They may hit another vehicle and cause a crash between two or more cars. Distracted driving may also cause a person to damage property, such as hitting a light pole, the side of a building or a tree. Any of these actions can result in time in jail, financial loss, injury, or even death.
Every year it is estimated that 515,000 people suffer from injuries as a result of distracted driving-related car crashes. Six thousand people die from these types of accidents. Of these deaths, eighteen percent were related to cellphone usage. When it comes to texting, a driver's chances of having an accident is twenty-three times greater than if he or she were not texting. Yearly 330,000 people are injured as a result of texting while driving, and an average of eleven teens are killed daily from accidents that are the result of texting. According to the official government website for distracted driving, when a person looks away from the road to text for 4.6 seconds while driving 55 miles per hour, it is the equivalent of driving blindfolded down a football field.
- Iowa Department of Transportation - Facts and Statistics
- Distracted Driving - We're Number 1
- FCC: The Dangers of Texting While Driving
How to Reduce the Risks
People can reduce the dangers of distracted driving by eliminating those things that cause distractions. Before starting the car, put phones and any electronic device away in a safe, but out-of-sight location. If driving to an unfamiliar location, use GPS or look over maps before the car is in motion. Setting the radio station prior to starting the car will also help to reduce distractions. If hungry, stop and pull over to eat rather than drink or eat while driving. If there is a passenger in the car ask them to help with things such as changing music, checking routes or checking for messages.