In our fast paced lives, it’s easy to find distractions behind the wheel of your car. This month, in honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we want to take a moment to consider common distractions and their risks. We encourage you to be aware of these threats and make an effort to drive safely and distraction free!
The most common distractions include using a cell phone, texting, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading (including maps), grooming, and watching a video. Even features of your car can be distracting, like using a navigation system, adjusting the radio, or adjusting the heater or air conditioning. Though all these distractions can pose a threat, the most dangerous by far is cell phone use and texting, so that’s going to be our focus today.
Cell phones have become a ubiquitous part of everyday life. At any one time, 9% of drivers are talking on cell phones – making them 4 times as likely to crash. Technological advances like Bluetooth capabilities and hands free devices have made it possible to place and answer phone calls without looking at your phone; however, the idea that hands free devices are safe to use while driving is a myth – multitasking can be dangerous.
Conversation requires brain capacity necessary to stay alert and pay attention to all of the factors (on the road and in the car) that affect your driving. Phone calls, even if you don’t actually hold or operate your phone, divert brain capacity to focus on the conversation. Your brain is 37% less capable to gather and process critical driving data while engaged in a conversation. Having a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle (while still a distraction) is much safer because both you and your passenger can watch the road and react to traffic, weather, and changing conditions.
Texting is by far the most dangerous activity you can do while driving. Texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention – all of which are necessary for driving. If you text while driving, you are 8 to 23 times more likely to crash or cause an accident. Texting makes it harder to stay in the lane, identify high and low relevant objects, pick up visual cues, and react to exits, red light, and stop signs.
Drivers who text and drive contribute to at least 100,000 crashes every year, causing thousands of preventable deaths. Don’t think you can get off on a technicality – sending or reading emails, checking Facebook, writing tweets… all of these activities are just as dangerous as texting.
This month, remember the risks before you engage in a distraction while driving. Practice some self-control and avoid looking at your cell phone. If the temptation is too high, try keeping your phone out of reach or in a bag or glove box you can’t access while driving. Turn off your Bluetooth devices and remember that even hands free calls can be a detriment. Take the pledge to drive phone-free and help end distracted driving!