April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By now, most of us have been impacted in one way or another by “distracted driving”. A commonly accepted definition of “distracted” is “any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.” All distractions endanger not only the driver and passengers, but also bystanders.

Some of the typical distractions encountered are:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Texting
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the top three distractions are:

  • Talking with other passengers
  • Changing radio stations or looking for CDs or tapes
  • Making an outgoing or taking an incoming cell phone call

The statistics are sobering. It is estimated that anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 crashes related to distracted driving occur daily in the United States. Here are some NHSTA data to consider:

  • The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, This was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.
  • 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. (VTTI)
  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving. (UMTRI)

Here a few simple tips from AAA to help keep yourself, your family members, and others on the road safe:

  • Plan ahead and make vehicle adjustments, including the radio, prior to putting the vehicle in gear.
  • Read maps or program your trip into your GPS or mobile device before you get on the road.
  • Avoid the temptation of using a cell phone while driving; pull over to a safe place to talk on the phone, text, or email.
  • Stop to eat or drink; do not be tempted to eat and drink while driving.
  • Pull over to take care of children.
  • Do not drive with pets unsecured in your vehicle; pets can be a major distraction to drivers in the vehicle.
  • And most of all, pay attention and stay focused on the task at hand … driving.

The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. Please visit the NHSTA/Distraction.gov sites, such as FAQ and sample research reports, for more information.


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