You might think it’s not a big deal to talk on your phone, eat, text, change the radio station or even apply makeup while you’re driving. However, these activities divert your attention from the road and affect your awareness and response time as a driver. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month — an effort to recognize the dangers of distracted driving and to eliminate the deaths caused by distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving.”
Distracted driving has become a huge problem on our roadways. Consider these stats:
- In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver.
- In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
And the biggest problem of all is cell phone use.
Put your phone away
Many people feel like they can talk on the phone or text without it affecting their driving abilities. Studies have shown that this is not true. During daylight hours, 481,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving. And texting is probably the most alarming distraction during driving. The NHTSA says, “texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” When you are distracted for this period of time, the likelihood of hitting another vehicle, person or roadway obstruction increases, and it’s more difficult to recognize and avoid other distracted drivers.
Many state legislatures recognize just how dangerous using a phone can be while driving and have laws against texting or using a phone while driving. However, many people continue to use their phones while driving. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, cell-phone-related crashes increased from 50,000 to about 70,000, according to the NHSTA.
Driving distracted and drunk
Not surprisingly, drivers who are both distracted and drunk pose an even bigger threat on the roads. One study found that when a driver is both drunk and distracted, the effects of the alcohol are at least doubled. Drunk drivers are also more likely to make poor decisions, believing that they can text, eat or participate in other distractions that affect their driving. It’s a dangerous combination that puts people’s lives at risk. To learn more about how alcohol affects your driving abilities, read our blog “How Does Alcohol Affect My Driving?”
How to prevent distracted driving
Every driver and passenger are affected by distracted driving. Here’s what you can do to help ensure our roads stay safe:
- Pledge to not use your cell phone or other electronic device while driving.
- Turn on safe mode so that you do not receive text notifications while driving.
- Avoid drinking and eating while driving.
- Do not talk on the phone while driving, even with a hands-free device.
- Speak up if you’re a passenger and tell the driver to follow these same rules.
- Wear a seatbelt to protect yourself.
- Never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.
For more information about distracted driving, visit the NHTSA. And for information about ignition interlock devices, read our Frequently Asked Questions resource.