April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and all of us at SafeAuto take that very seriously. According to the CDC, every day in the US, 9 people are killed and 1,000+ others injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving happens anytime the driver takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and/or mind off of driving. Many people think of smartphones and texting when they think of distracted driving, but there are other activities that can be classified as distracting when you are behind the wheel.
Types of Distraction
Visual distractions take your eyes off the road. This includes “rubbernecking”, texting, or looking up directions.
Manual distraction means your hands are off the wheel. This includes reaching for your phone, adjusting the radio, eating/drinking, applying makeup, etc.
A cognitive distraction takes your mind off the road. Examples include arguing with a passenger, talking on the phone, or daydreaming.
How phones are distracting
Talking and texting are major distractions when you are behind the wheel. Texting is especially dangerous as it combines the three types of distractions – visual, manual, and cognitive. Using a hands-free device seems like an acceptable solution, but can still cause cognitive distraction. We all think we’re good at multi-tasking but in reality, our brain has a limited ability to perform more than one task at a time.
Distracted Driving Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014, research suggests that 52% of normal driving included some form of distraction. All in all, there were 431,000 people injured and 3,179 people killed in accidents involving distracted drivers. These accidents accounted for 16% of all motor vehicle crashes in the US.
Who is most at risk?
Unfortunately, the most novice drivers, young adults and teen drivers, tend to have the highest risk of distracted driving. The CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) found that in 2015, 42% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving. These teens were also less likely to wear a seatbelt while driving, more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking, and more likely to drink and drive themselves.
What you can do
To help put a stop to distracted driving, the best thing you can do is stay off your phone. When you get in the driver’s seat, put your phone on silent and out of sight (in a purse or glovebox). You will feel less inclined to check it if it’s out of reach and out of sight. If you do need to use your phone’s GPS, program your route before you hit the road and take advantage of your Bluetooth if possible so you can keep your eyes ahead. For any items you will need access to while driving, like cash or your purse, keep them close by. If you need to eat, pull over. It’s safer and easier to eat a meal in the parking lot than on the road.
Many states are enacting laws to discourage distracted driving, such as banning texting while driving. Remember, when you are behind the wheel, driving is your primary job. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the steering wheel, and you mind on driving. By preventing distracted driving, you are keeping yourself and others on the road safe. Learn more about the importance of preventing distracted driving by visiting www.cdc.gov/niosh/motorvehicle.