Distracted driving is a hazard that kills thousands and injures close to half a million people every year on America's roads. To avoid becoming a statistic, it's vital to understand the dangers of driving while distracted and change the behaviors that put you at greater risk.
What Defines Distracted Driving?
Any activity that takes your focus away from the road is a distraction that increases the likelihood of a crash. This includes eating or drinking, talking with passengers, grooming, reading, watching a video, looking at a map, and using a GPS device, radio, CD or MP3 player. The two activities that pose the biggest threats to safety are using a cell phone and texting because they shift your manual, cognitive and visual attention away from the critical task of controlling the vehicle.
Highway Statistics Highlight the Perils of Driving Distracted
Crashes due to distractions are on the rise nationwide. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012 alone, 412,000 people sustained injuries in distraction-related collisions. During that 12-month period, over 3,200 individuals lost their lives in car accidents that involved distracted drivers.
Young drivers are at greatest risk. Ten percent of drivers age 20 or under and involved in fatal crashes were distracted when the accident occurred. Twenty-seven percent of distracted drivers involved in deadly auto collisions were in their 20s.
How to Avoid Distractions and Reduce the Threat of a Collision
- Have your cell phone charged and ready for emergency use, then shut it off. Even with a hands-free headset, cell phone use while driving increases your risk of a collision three-fold.
- Don't send or read text messages while driving. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to have an accident.
- Input your destination into the GPS before you head out.
- If you need to read a map, pull over and stop in a safe location first.
- Keep noise to a minimum inside the car, and don't fiddle with the radio or any other devices.