There are 100 driving-related fatalities on average each year in Maryland. That works out at over 8 deaths per month – a pretty sobering thought. Distracted driving is the main cause of car accidents in America and it’s on the rise – partly fueled by technology (more gadgets available to take our attention) and our increasingly busy lives. This is resulting in increases in accidents and legal action, so is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is driving while using your cell phone, eating or drinking, fiddling with the GPS or stereo or anything else that distracts you from focusing on the road. There are three main categories. Cognitive distraction is when your mind wanders so you aren’t thinking about driving. Visual distraction is when you take your eyes off the road to do something (like look at children in the back seat, or search for a road name). Finally, manual distraction is when you take your hands off the wheel to do something like open a drink or put on sunglasses. Any of these distractions can endanger lives, but texting is probably the most dangerous as it combines all three.
Drivers concentration reduced by texting
A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2012 showed just how dangerous texting can be. In response to these findings, drivers caught texting face heavy penalties. The study focused on drivers of commercial vehicles, but the findings are equally applicable to car drivers. According to the study, the average text message absorbed the driver’s concentration for 4.6 seconds; when travelling at just 55 mph this meant the driver wasn’t looking at the road for equivalent of the length of an entire football pitch – increasing the chances of a truck driver causing a crash by more than 23 times.
A British study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory also highlighted the need for recognition that distracted driving is potentially lethal; according to their study, car drivers who sent a text message while driving saw a 37% reduction in reaction times – nearly three times worse than when drivers had been drinking.
How to stay focused
There are several ways motorists can avoid distracted driving, but probably the main message is not to use your cell phone. The best way to achieve this is to turn it off or put it on silent mode before you even get in the car. Other things to bear in mind are pulling off the road if you are feeling tired, limiting the number of passengers in your car, avoiding eating while driving, not doing personal grooming at the wheel and not driving when feeling emotionally distracted.
It’s essential that drivers don’t get complacent and remain aware of other road users. Distracted driving is on the increase and huge danger to fellow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers must remain vigilant to ensure they are alert and focused at the wheel. In some states there are moves afoot to strengthen distracted driving laws so that there are even tougher penalties for anyone found to be driving under the influence of an electronic device. You have been warned.