Distracted Driving Behaviors Making American Roads More Dangerous
American roads aren’t in great condition. In fact, our roads received a “D” average in a report published by the American Society Of Civil Engineers. When our roads are falling apart, it’s more important than ever to drive safely.
Unfortunately, many drivers regularly engage in incredibly unsafe driving habits. Distracted driving is a rising problem across the country. A record number of drivers aren’t paying attention behind the wheel. As a result, more Americans are getting into car accidents every year.
When you drive, you have a responsibility to use care and caution. Accidents are much more likely to occur when you divert your attention from the road. Distracted driving practices put everyone in harm’s way, including other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. In order to make our roads safe, all drivers must pledge to avoid distractions and focus on getting to their destinations safely.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving can be defined as any behavior that takes your focus away from the road while operating a motor vehicle. Distracted driving behaviors can be classified into one of three categories: manual, visual, and cognitive.
Manual Distracted Driving: Removing your hands from the wheel while operating a motor vehicle.
Visual Distracted Driving: Diverting your eyes from the road while operating vehicle.
Cognitive Distracted Driving: Focusing your attention on something other than driving.
Examples of distracted driving include:
- Using a cell phone
- Talking to passengers
- Playing with the car radio, CD player, or tape deck
- Using a GPS or navigation system, and
In recent years, distracted driving has become particularly problematic due to advances in technology. Years ago, few people, if any, had access to a cell phone. Today, it’s estimated that 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone. If you have a phone, chances are you take it with you almost everywhere, including the car.
As more Americans have gotten cell phones – and smartphones, in particular – the rate of car accidents across the country has skyrocketed.
How Distractions Affect Your Ability to Drive Safely
Driving is an inherently dangerous activity. It’s critical for all drivers to dedicate their full attention to the road and their surroundings. Diverting your eyes or focus from the road, even briefly, significantly increases the likelihood of an accident.
Researchers have investigated the dangers of distracted driving. Studies have shown:
- Texting requires drivers to look away from the road for anywhere between 4.6 and 5 seconds. At 55 MPH, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
- Hands-free devices can divert a driver’s attention for up to 27 seconds.
- Eating increases the risk of an accident by as much as 80 percent.
- Drivers who are upset or emotionally distracted are 10 times more likely than others to get into an accident.
- Accidents are 9 times more likely to occur when a driver reaches into the backseat to grab something.
- Small children can increase the risk of an accident. Parents divert their attention from the road for an average of 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute car ride with young children.
- Drivers who text are 23 times more likely than others to get into an accident.
- Texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
How Distractions Affect Your Ability to Drive Safely
Taking your eyes off the road, even for a matter of seconds, is dangerous. When you’re not watching the road, you’re more likely to:
- Miss traffic safety signs
- Run a stop sign or red light
- Lose control of your vehicle
- Drift into other lanes of traffic
- Strike debris or hazards in the road, and
- Fail to see bicyclists and pedestrians.
The longer you divert your attention from the road, the greater the risk of causing serious injury or death.
Distracted Driving Causing a Record Number of Traffic Accidents
Traffic accidents were actually declining in the United States for a number of years. However, this trend is changing. The number of accidents reported across the country is on the rise. It’s probably no coincidence that smartphones have become increasingly popular during this same period of time.
Just how much do distracted driving practices contribute to car accidents? Statistics show:
- Every year, 1.6 million car accidents involve a distracted driver.
- 25 percent of all car accidents involve a distracted driver.
- 9 people are killed and 1,000 others are injured because of distracted drivers every day.
- 3,450 people were killed because of distracted driving in 2016
- 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving car accidents in 2016.
The rate of car accidents in the United States will probably continue to rise until distracted driving practices are under control.
Initiatives to Reduce Distracted Driving Practices
Drivers are ultimately responsible for curbing their own distracted driving behaviors. However, state and local lawmakers across the country have stepped in and implemented countermeasures and safety initiatives to make American roads safer.
Rumble Strips: Many highways and roads now include rumble strips. Rumble strips are narrow areas of ridged pavement alongside lanes of traffic. The strips emit an unpleasant and loud noise when driven on. The noise and vibrations emitted by the rumble strips help to snap drivers back into focus.
Barriers: Distracted drivers are more likely than others to veer from their lane of traffic. Many government agencies have installed protective barriers to prevent distracted drivers from drifting into oncoming traffic.
Texting and Driving Bans: 47 states currently have laws that prohibit drivers from texting and while operating a motor vehicle. Violations of state cell phone laws can carry significant fines, license suspension, and, in some cases, criminal penalties.
Total Cell Phone Bans: Many states have laws that prohibit certain individuals, including school bus drivers and teenagers, from using a cell phone in any capacity while driving.
Private companies have also committed to eliminating distracted driving accidents.
It Can Wait: AT&T launched its “It Can Wait” campaign in 2010. The campaign, which is focused on driver education, highlights the fact that it’s never safe to text and drive. To date, more than 33 million drivers have pledged to not use their cell phones while driving.
Smart Technology: Advances in technology are partly responsible for the increase in distracted driving accidents. Now tech companies are trying to use technology to help fix the problem. Many vehicles are now equipped with smart technology that can identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Smart vehicle technology can:
- Alert drivers when they begin to veer out of their lane of traffic
- Engage the brakes to avoid a collision
- Warn drivers when other vehicles or pedestrians get too close or are in the vehicle’s blind spot, and
- Maintain a safe stopping distance between vehicles.
Technology also allows drivers to use features on their cell phone right through the vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system. Hands-free systems are not entirely safe but do limit the amount of time a driver diverts his or her eyes from the road.