Distractions take a motorist’s attention off driving, which can make a driver miss critical events, objects, and cues or abandon control of a vehicle, all potentially leading to a crash. Distracted drivers put not only themselves at risk, but everyone else using the road.
According to NHTSA, one of every ten fatal crashes in the U.S. involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year. The exact toll is unknown because investigators often have difficulty measuring the extent to which driver distraction is a contributing factor in a crash.
Taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
According to the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the majority of motorists rated texting while driving and cell phone while driving use very serious threats to their safety, yet many admitted performing these distracting behaviors while driving within the previous month.
The pervasiveness of a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude toward distracted driving highlights the need to spread awareness of the risks and work with drivers to increase safety on the roads.
Dozens of studies and concluded that any cell phone use roughly quadruples crash risk. With one out of every 20 drivers using a handheld cell phone at any given time, safety for all road users is a key concern.
Many believe that hands-free phones are safer than handheld phones. Numerous research studies, however, conclude that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones – hands-free is not risk-free. Drivers should not use a cell phone – whether handheld or hands-free – while behind the wheel.
Laws are a critical part of the traffic safety equation to address distracted driving, but not the only component. A comprehensive approach to addressing distracted driving includes not only laws but several additional elements:
- Education: Drivers can be better informed about the risks of distracted driving through such channels as driver education and DMV manuals, community programs, the media, and by safety advocates.
- Enforcement: States should establish and consistently enforce distracted driving laws based on sound research and safety principles.
- Engineering: Roadway countermeasures that can help prevent distracted driving crashes and injuries include center and edge line rumble strips and stripes, guardrails, and median cable barriers. Consumer electronics products and in-vehicle technology to manage the use of wireless communications may play a role in future solutions to reducing distracted driving.
- Evaluation: Continued research is needed to determine the impact of and the most effective ways to curb distracted driving behaviors.
- Encouragement: You are part of the solution. Encourage your friends, family and neighbors to avoid distracted driving. Nonetheless, distracted driving laws can make a positive impact on driver behavior.