The official U.S. government website for distracted driving, Distraction.gov, reported that in 2013 a total of 3,154 people were killed and 421,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents.
In spite of these staggering statistics, drivers continue to ignore their safety and the safety of others while driving.
If you engage in any of the following driving distractions, you are greatly increasing the odds of causing harm to yourself, someone else, or damaging your vehicle.
1. Cell phone use
When that text message comes in, or you suddenly realize you need to call your best friend about something, picking up your phone to dial or type in a message seems innocent enough. But the truth is that you are putting your life and the lives of others in severe danger.
According to researchers, when you use your cell phone to text or call someone, you’re involving three distractions at once. Those are:
• You reach for your phone
• You look at or check the display screen
• You think of your response to a text or message
Think that if you have a “hands free” device in your car, you’re fine? Think again. Even if you drive with an earpiece, have a dashboard system, or use speaker phone, the National Safety Council notes that 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use – including when you talk hands-free.
2. Driving with pets in the car
Anyone who has ever driven with a dog knows they are constantly striving for attention – and, that includes while you’re driving. A survey conducted by AAA showed that 84 percent of respondents occasionally drove with their pets. Of those, only 16 percent claimed to have used any form of pet restraint such as a leash or dog harness. Worse yet, 52 percent confessed to petting, 13 percent to feeding, and 4 percent to playing with their dogs while behind the wheel.
Keep in mind that what you may consider a slight distraction, such as glancing at a short text on your phone, takes approximately 5 seconds. And, although that may not seem like a long time, during those 5 seconds, you can actually travel the full length of a football field – end zone to end zone. So, if you’re intent on playing with, feeding, or grabbing Fido’s fallen toy from the back seat floor of your vehicle, the best thing is to pull over to avoid an accident.
3. Driving with kids in the car
This can be just a distracting as a restless dog, especially in the case of young children crying or fighting. In fact, AAA reports that kids and infants are generally 4 times and 8 times, respectively, more distracting than adults as passengers. In addition, a researcher in Australia found that the average parent takes their eyes off the road a scary total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a mere 16-minute trip. Next time you notice a “Baby on board” sign on the car ahead of you – you may want to keep your distance.
4. Eating while driving
We get it – you don’t have time to stop and you have to eat on the run. The problem with that is it can lead to distracted driving. As a matter of fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines describe a crash to be caused by distracted driving – if the investigation concludes that a driver had been using a technological device or participated in inattentive or careless activities, including reading, talking, applying makeup, or eating.
That includes eating a messy sandwich or sloppy burger with everything on it, dropping a French fry between your seat and the console, or having your drink spill all over you and the floor.
5. GPS use while driving
While your GPS may help you get around without having to pull out a road map – it also contributes to distracted driving. To make their point about the potential hazard – a California Appellate Court ruling in 2013 determined that the use of a GPS device or mapping app on your phone while behind the wheel was equivalent to texting as a risk factor. Try to research where you’re going ahead of time, if possible. And, pull over when entering an address for directions.
6. Applying makeup while driving
This has always been an interesting one, although many women see no problem with it. The NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a study that found that 80 percent of all vehicle crashes involved driver distraction of some type, including applying makeup.
A final note: Public Health Reports place the blame on distracted driving for a substantial increase in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in recent years.
So, what’s the solution?
Parents: Set clear ground rules for teenage drivers and enforce them. Educate your teens about distracted driving, and the possible deadly consequences of driving while distracted.
Teens: Tell your friends you won’t ride with them if they text. It’s just not worth it!
Employers: Don’t expect employees to respond to emails and work messages while driving. Communicate to employees the importance of focusing on driving while behind the wheel.
Another solution is to put your phone in your trunk while you drive. Otherwise, it is really tempting to respond to that text or pick up your phone for some reason.
Remember, if you hit someone while distracted, it could cause minimal damage – or change your life forever.
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