Distracted Driving Is a Growing Safety Hazard
We see them all the time. Those folks on the expressway, doing everything you can imagine while driving … what are they thinking?
“I’m so late and the traffic is so bad. I’d better send a quick text to my boss.”
“Oh look, what a cool sunset … I’ll take a picture!”
“No time for breakfast this morning. I’ll just eat a bagel on the way.”
“I’ll put on my makeup while I wait for the lights to change.”
Traffic safety experts tell us that an increasing number of drivers today are multitasking behind the wheel. During Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, these experts took the opportunity to spread the word about how very dangerous it is when we fail to fully attend to our driving task.
Distracted driving happens when we take our eyes off the road, or our hands off the wheel, or our mind off our driving. Did you know that driving while distracted is almost as dangerous as drunk driving? Every day in the U.S., ten people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes related to distracted driving.
It only takes a few seconds of inattentiveness to cause an accident. A Stony Brook University expert explained it like this: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at the rate of 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of covering the length of a football field blindfolded.”
Many states, including Illinois, prohibit the use of handheld electronic devices for any purpose—talking, texting or using apps. Avoid temptation by putting your phone in the trunk, or turning it off. Studies show that even if you don’t answer your phone while driving, just thinking about who might be calling can take your mind off your driving.
What about hands-free devices?
Talking on a hands-free device, or using speech-to-text and text-to-speech features, or even conversing with a passenger, also can be very distracting. If the conversation is commanding your attention, pull over to continue. Hands-free does not mean risk-free.
Experts say that following audible navigation directions or listening to music or a podcast are relatively safe activities. But to make them much safer, prepare before you start the car so you won’t be fiddling with settings once your trip is underway. Tune to the station you want to listen to, and adjust the volume. If you’re using a navigation system, enter the address before you depart. And while you’re at it, adjust your seat, put on your sunglasses and adjust your mirrors before you set off.
Need more convincing? Check out these humorous but informative videos from Decide to Drive, a joint project of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which provide reminders about the dangers of texting, shaving, putting on makeup, drinking hot beverages and, of course, taking a selfie behind the wheel.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider.