Distracted driving has quickly become known as one of the biggest dangers on the road, injuring more than 1,000 people each day in the U.S. In Louisiana alone, 722 fatal car crashes occurred in 2012, according to Louisiana State University Highway Safety Research Group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found roughly 8 people die as a result of distracted driving each day, yet studies show that driver distraction continues to rise. In an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, our firm has compiled a list of some of the most common reasons drivers become distracted behind the wheel.
1. Phone Conversations
Hand-held phone use has long since been forbidden in Louisiana, though it continues to be a hazardous problem. Drivers continue to use their phones while driving, allowing the conversation to take hold of a vast majority of their mental attention. A study that looked at car accident patterns in Louisiana, California, Minnesota and Washington found that car accidents actually slightly increased after texting and driving was banned in these states, except in Washington, which experienced statistically insignificant change. This study was conducted in 2010 by the Highway Loss Data Institute.
And, while hands-free devices have been thought to serve as a safe alternative for driver phone calls, research has actually come to show that hand-held devices can be just as unsafe. Talking on the phone with a hands-free device, while not physically distracting, takes the driver’s attention away from the task at hand. In fact, drivers’ minds are so focused on phone conversations that, on average, a driver only sees 50% of the road in front of them when they are on the phone, according to the National Safety Council.
While some proponents of hands-free devices claimed they were just as distracting as any conversation a driver would hold with a car passenger, the National Safety Council found evidence to prove otherwise. The person on the other end of the call can’t see the dangers around the driver, like a passenger could. Studies revealed that passengers would notice potential hazards, stopping the conversation when necessary to alert the driver of any possible danger.
2. Tapping, Clicking, Swiping, or Scrolling
With all of the amazing technological advances in recent years, our cell phones now enable us to search the internet, play games, change music, take videos, and more. While these extra features are wonderful for many reasons, they’ve unfortunately proved to be a strong and dangerous temptation while driving. Whether texting, scrolling through an app, or reading emails, using your phone while driving is extremely hazardous.
Teenage drivers are picking up on these bad habits early on. According to The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, roughly 2 out of every 5 high school students will send at least 1 text message or email while driving in the span of a month. While it may seem like a quick distraction, research has revealed that mind remains distracted even after the physical or visual distraction is removed. So, even if you check your phone at a stop light, the danger of distraction stays with you when the light turns green, so long as your mind remains preoccupied.
3. Using Navigation
Most drivers use navigation systems to get from point A to point B, whether those systems are installed in the vehicle or on their phone. Much like phone distractions, navigation systems can divert a driver both visually and mentally. Anything that draws your eyes or mind away from the road can be hazardous, and should be avoided. Instead, voice commands are a safer option because they allow the driver to keep both eyes on the road at all times. However, perhaps a better choice is to look over directions before driving, planning your route before you begin. Or, if you have a passenger, put them in charge of navigation so you can be free to focus on driving safely.
While eating in the car may seem like a minor thing, it contributes to numerous accidents each year. Eating requires drivers to remove at least 1 hand from the steering wheel, which can be very unsafe, especially if the driver needs to make a sudden move. If, for example, a car next to your vehicle changes lanes without looking, you will want both hands firmly on the wheel in order to evade the car and avoid an accident. Make the safe decision, and eat before or after you get behind the wheel.
Plenty of drivers hop into their car in a rush. If you’re running late for work, a date, or an appointment, it can be all too easy to convince yourself you can finish getting ready on your way there. Whether you’re putting on lipstick or looking in the mirror to double check that your tie is straight, do not do so while driving. Finish all grooming practices before you start your car, or wait until you’ve safely arrived.