Driving requires the simultaneous use of multiple skills: focus and attention, coordination, as well as split-second decision making. When any one of those skills is compromised due to distractions behind the wheel, the driver immediately becomes more likely to be involved in a car accident. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and causes thousands of accidents annually on our nation’s roads and highways.
Most drivers don’t consider themselves distracted while driving. People assume that they can handle multiple tasks at the same time without any consequences. That may be the case outside of the car, but once a person gets behind the wheel that immediately changes. Drivers must always be focused and ready to respond to the actions of other drivers and unforeseen circumstances on the road. In a report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, if you drive a car at 55 mph and then take your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds to read a text, it is like traveling the length of an entire football field while being blindfolded. If you think that texting while driving is OK, then think again.
Distracted driving is any activity that occurs while operating a motor vehicle that could divert a person’s focus away from the essential task of driving. This risky behavior endangers the life of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Distracted driving includes the following actions:
- Talking to and reacting to other passengers in the car
- Adjusting the music such as a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
- Eating and drinking while driving
- Making or receiving phone calls
- Texting or reading a text
- Putting on lipstick, applying make-up, fixing your hair or shaving
Distracted driving has risen to epidemic levels across our country and there has been a lot of recent focus to prevent this dangerous behavior. The use of cell phones while driving has started to get national attention and states are either passing or considering legislation that will prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, 20% of the car wrecks involving injuries were caused by distracted driving.
Distracted driving has become as big a concern as drinking and driving. If you think about it, the two really have a lot in common. In both situations, the driver’s concentration is impaired and the reaction time is adversely affected. According to a study by the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving actually slows a driver’s reaction time to the same speed as if the driver had a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of .08 percent. In another study conducted by Monash University, people who attempt to drive while using a hand-held device are four times more likely to get into a serious car crash that results in injury to the driver, passengers or other drivers on the highways.
The underlying problem of distracted driving is public perception. Most everybody knows that drinking and driving is wrong, but very few people will admit that driving while talking on the phone is dangerous. Education is key. One of the best ways to end distracted driving is to make people of all ages aware of the dangers involved. Hopefully, as awareness increases, the number of car accidents will decrease.
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