Taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely is considered "distracted driving." Statistics show the extent of the problem and the tragic results. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving driver distraction, and 448,000 were injured.Sixteen percent (16%) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash in 2009 were reported to have been distracted. Text messaging is by far the most alarming distraction as it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver. "Distracted driving" includes:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
- Or any other non-driving activity
"Drivers who use hand-held devices were 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves"(Monash University).
"Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute or VTTI)"
"Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent at 55mph of driving the entire length of a football field, blind. (VTTI)"
"Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)"
Experts estimate that, " At any given moment during daylight hours, over 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study which concluded the age group of drivers who were more distracted (about 22%) by one or more internal sources was the age group between 16 to 25. The study also showed as age increased the distractions decreased.
To reduce "distracted driving", community action, parental involvement and often employer involvement are needed. Perhaps the next time you are in a vehicle with a friend and they answer the phone, you might let them know you are not comfortable with "distracted driving" and what the dangers are. If you are a parent, set an example by not being a distracted driver. Consider agreeing to a family pledge not to engage in "distracted driver" behavior.. One text or call could wreck your whole family with a needless tragedy. Or cause harm to someone else that you or a family member will have to live with the rest of your life. Remember to think safety when you are driving.