Motor vehicle crashes are among the top two leading causes of death throughout a person’s lifetime. The lives lost on U.S. roadways each year are equivalent to the lives that would be lost from a 100-passenger jet crashing every day of the year. This includes people inside and outside of vehicles-motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians who were hit by cars. In addition to the fatalities, many more people suffer life-changing injuries because of motor vehicle crashes. To reduce this toll, education and prevention must focus on the cause of the crashes. While alcohol and speeding have always been leading factors, driver distraction has joined the ranks. Let’s face it-we have an unhealthy obsession with our phones.
What is distracted driving? It’s simple. Distracted driving is any task that takes your focus away from your primary task of driving. There are three types of distraction:
Visual distraction-taking your eyes off the road (tuning your radio, looking at a map)
Manual distraction-taking your hands of the wheel (reaching in your purse, dialing the phone, eating)
Cognitive distraction- not being focused (Ever driven from one place to the other and not remember exactly how you got there? How about those screaming kids in the backseat?)
Rarely are we engaged in just one type of distraction. For example, programming your GPS while driving requires you to take your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.
Below are some straightforward facts about distracted driving:
A cell phone is involved in one in four motor vehicle accidents.
There is NO safety benefit to hands-free devices. You are still four times at risk for an accident.
Five seconds is the average time it takes you to read a text. At 55 mph, it is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded!
You are 23 more times at risk of getting into an accident when you text while driving.
16 and 17 year olds proportionately have more accidents than any other age group.
In Indiana, the number one injury in 15-18 year olds in related to motor vehicle accidents.
Teen drivers cause more fatal accidents than any other age group. For every teen driver death, there are at least two others-passengers or other motorists.
Why all of these risks? We are great at multitasking right? No. Contrary to popular belief our brains are not wired to multi-task. In the presence of multiple activities, your brain juggles tasks sequentially, switching between them rapidly making us “think” we are multitasking when in fact we are not. The brain not only juggles tasks, it juggles focus and attention. In the presence of an increased workload, we process information slower and our reaction times are decreased. Younger drivers are inexperienced which leads to increased risks for them.
Don’t become a statistic. Here is how you can keep yourself and others safe while you’re on the road:
- Out of sight, out of mind-Stow your phone away in a place you can’t reach.
- Pull over if you do need to take or make a call.
- Speak up if you are a passenger and the driver is using their phone.
- Finish dressing and grooming at home.
- Secure pets and children before getting on the road.
- Prepare for your trip before departing-adjust mirrors, program your GPS, check traffic conditions, etc.
- Snack smart-avoid messy foods.
The fight to end distracted driving starts with you. Make the commitment to drive phone –free today. Talk to your teenager or young adult about the risks of distracted driving and establish consequences. Below are several resources to help you start the conversation: