Drive Safe and Distraction-Free
We’ve all been on the road and noticed someone trying to use their cell phone while maneuvering through traffic. You know this person is putting themselves and the drivers around them at risk, so you roll your eyes, shake your head, and wish they would put it away. Then you hear the familiar ring, buzz, or ding from your phone. What do you do? Be honest!
Distracted driving is a serious and dangerous epidemic in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2013. Distractions include anything that takes your attention away from the road, including texting, using a cell phone, eating, adjusting the radio, etc. Since texting combines the three main causes of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive), it is by far the most dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at any given daylight moment in America, 660,000 people are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.
It is easy to think that peeking at a text won’t make much of a difference. After all, sending or reading a text only takes an average of five seconds. However, at 55mph you will have traveled the length of a football field in five seconds–plenty of time for an unexpected event to cause an accident.
Hands-free devices take a step in the right direction to prevent unnecessary accidents since they remove two types of distraction–visual and manual. However, the conversation itself involves cognitive distraction which can cause drivers to miss important visual and audio queues that could help avoid a crash.
The government is also taking strides to address distracted driving, but there is still a long way to go. Individual states are responsible for passing laws against texting, talking on a cell phone, and other distractions. In Indiana, there is a ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for drivers under the age of 18, and texting while driving is illegal for all ages. Of course, enforcing these laws is tricky.
You can take steps right now to influence your family and friends by educating them on the risks involved with distracted driving. Set a good example for your children by putting your phone where you cannot reach or hear it while you are driving. Go to www.distraction.gov and print the pledge form to make the commitment to drive distraction-free. Be sure to have this important conversation with your family members too. Make sure they all know to speak out if the driver of the car they are riding in is distracted. These small steps can make a world of difference.