In 2013, distracted driving resulted in 424, 000 injuries and 3,154 deaths in the United States. This sobering statistic not only alerts us to the dangers of distracted driving, but the need for continued awareness, education, and action against poor driving habits that lead to fatal consequences.
Not many people realize that distracted driving is more than just taking your eyes off the road. According to the CDC, there are three types of distracted driving.
Type 1: Visual Distractions
Visual distractions occur when you take your eyes off the road. Checking text messages, rummaging through a bag or backpack, and glancing at that morning cup of coffee nestled in a drink holder all cause you to focus on something other than the road and surrounding traffic. During normal freeway driving, taking you eyes off the road for 5 seconds is enough time to travel the distance of a football field. Now imagine you are driving that distance blindfolded: that’s what driving with visual distractions is like.
Type 2: Manual Distractions
Manual distractions take your hands away from the wheel, impair your vehicle control, and reduce your reaction time. Adjusting the volume on the radio, texting, and sending emails during your drive requires you to remove a hand from the steering wheel and take your eyes off the road. The same goes for the cup of coffee you’re trying to hold on to or the breakfast sandwich you’re trying to eat. Not only do these activities result in a manual distraction, they also result in a visual distraction that could lead to an accident or death.
Type 3: Cognitive Distractions
Any activity that takes your mind off the road is a cognitive distraction. Replaying the argument you had with a significant other, mentally rehearsing a big presentation for work, and talking on the cell phone are all types of cognitive distractions. These types of distractions are often combined with visual and manual distractions–such as talking on the cell phone–and result in multiple levels of distractions with increased risk for accidents. In fact, the National Safety Council found that 28% of crashes are attributable to talking on cell phones and texting while operating a motor vehicle.
Good Driving Habits Save Lives
With responsible driving habits, the consequences of distracted driving can be greatly reduced. Of the 660,000 people who engage in cell phone use while driving, or the 20% of teens who conduct entire text message conversations while driving 100% of them could have reduced the possibility of an accident or fatality by just sending that text or answering that call after they were finished driving. Education is important for helping individuals understand the dangers of distracted driving. By learning what distracted driving is and changing your habits, you will take steps toward saving your life, the lives of your loved ones, and the lives of those sharing the road with you.