Created on: March 15, 2013 Last Updated: March 17, 2013
Distracted driving happens when the driver’s attention is diverted away from the road for whatever reason. According to Distraction.gov, the official U.S. website for distracted driving, there are three main types of distractions: manual, where a distraction causes you to take your hands off the wheel; visual, where a distraction causes you to take your eyes off the road; and cognitive, where your mind is not on your driving. Perhaps the most alarming distraction is texting while driving as this causes the driver to be distracted in all three dimensions, manual, visual and cognitive, at the same time.
Distracted driving can be deadly. Statistics on Distraction.gov state that more than three thousand people were killed in 2011 alone due to crashes caused by a distracted driver. Further, 416,000 people were injured in these crashes, representing 18% of motor vehicle accidents in 2010.
Drivers aged 20 and below were mostly to be distracted while driving, with 11% of drivers in this category involved in fatal crashes due to distractions. Further, the Pew Research Center found that reports that more than half the teenagers who own mobile phones have confessed to talking on their mobile phones while driving. Worse, one in three teens aged 16 – 17 have reported texting while driving.
These facts are all the more concerning in the light of a study conducted by Monash University in Australia, which found that drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are four times more likely to get into accidents serious enough to injure themselves.
Drivers may rationalize that sending a text message takes only a moment of their time. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has found that while sending and receiving text messages, a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. That’s long enough for a car to cover the length of a football field while driving at 55 mph, and more than long enough for a driver to get into a serious accident.
While some advocate using headsets or other hands-free device to answer calls when driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration disagrees, saying that this is not substantially safer. Research conducted by Marcel Adam Just at Carnegie Mellon backs up this claim. In the study, drivers were asked to drive along a stretch of winding road, either while undisturbed or while listening to spoken sentences, which participants were asked to deem true or false. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results showed that drivers’ accuracy was significantly impacted while doing these two activities at the same time.
Education about the dangers of distracted driving is perhaps the best way to reduce accidents attributable to distracted drivers. Faced with these facts, we should all commit to distraction-free driving.
Learn more about this author, Penne Cole.
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