You are a danger to yourself and others when you drive distracted. Every day in the United States, 9 people die and over 1,000 people are injured due to distracted driving.
What is Distracted Driving?
There are three types of distracted driving:
- Visual: when you take your eyes off of the road
- Manual: when you take your hands off of the wheel
- Cognitive: when your mind is not on the task at hand
Any activity that you do behind the wheel that causes your mind, hands, or eyes to divert from your driving is distracting. You are not a fully attentive driver when you take a sip of your coffee, take a bite of a granola bar, change the radio station, or check your phone. New drivers are especially susceptible to distracted driving; drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distracted-related fatal crashes.
Cell phones are often pointed to as the cause of distracted driving. Sending a text does encompass all three types of distracted driving- you must take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off of driving. It takes about five seconds to send a text message- at 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field in five seconds.
Although cell phones are a very real problem, the conversation about distracted driving often neglects other dangerous factors. Commutes are used by many as a period for catching up. You forgot to put your mascara on this morning, you didn’t read the chapter that your professor assigned, or you skipped breakfast. On the way out of the door you may say, “I’ll just do it in the car.” You are 2-3 times more likely to be involved in a crash if you eat, read, or apply makeup while driving.
You do not have to be Mr. Bean to be a distracted driver. Have you ever mentally complied your “to do list” on the way to work? Have you thought about what you will make for dinner on the drive home? Have you ever become engrossed in a song or a podcast? 59% of car crashes are caused by general inattentiveness. When our minds drift elsewhere we become unsafe drivers.
If you own a dog, you know how inconvenient it can be to travel with pets. Some dogs get very nervous and car sick, some insist on being pet by their driving owner, some bark until you put the window down, others bark until you put the window up. Regardless of your dog’s disposition, they make it pretty hard to focus. In fact, 65% of dog owners admit to being distracted by their pet while driving.
Driving with children in the car was found to be twelve times more distracting to the driver than talking on a cell phone. Parents take their eyes off of the road for 21% of their driving time to check on children, generally by looking in the rear view mirror or turning around in the driver’s seat. Most parents polled do not consider their children to be a distraction in the car, which proves that we do not understand how distracted our driving can be.
Over half (57%) of distracted driving accidents are caused by talking with a passenger. Only 12% of distracted driving accidents are caused by cell phone use. By now, drivers know that cell phone use is dangerous and- in most areas- illegal. We slow down when we text and drive, we attempt to hold the phone in the windshield so that we can keep our eyes on the road. No one ever warned us about talking with a passenger while driving.
Deep in conversation behind the wheel, we are not careful. We drive at the same speed with the same level of care while speaking with a passenger than we do in the car by ourselves; however, when we have a passenger, our focus is thinly spread. If we argue with our passengers, we drive faster and more aggressively- posing even more of a threat to ourselves and people around us.
While you are behind the wheel, remember that cell phones are not the only source of distracted driving. “Check in” with yourself from time to time, remind yourself of the task at hand, try to stay focused and avoid distractions.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving crash, please contact the attorneys at Rehmeyer & Allatt for a free consultation.