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In Touch With 21st - July 2013

Are you a distracted driver?


Are you a distracted driver?

What exactly is distracted driving? Texting? Talking on the phone? Daydreaming behind the wheel? Changing the radio station? Smoking while driving? Talking with someone in the back seat? Setting the GPS? Try all of them. Distracted driving is driving while engaged in other activities including using a cell phone, texting, conversing, eating or reading. Really, any time you drive and something or someone takes your attention from the road could be classified as distracted driving. And these distractions can compromise the safety of drivers, passengers, bystanders along with any other individuals using the road.

Some statistics related to distracted driving and accidents:

Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16% of all fatal crashes, leading to approximately 5,000 deaths every year.

• Car and Driver conducted a study in 2009 related to texting vs. drinking and driving, and which was more unsafe. The results showed that it was more dangerous to send an email or respond to a text as compared to being impaired by alcohol.

• The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that reaching for a phone distracts a driver for 4.6 seconds, which equates to the length of a football field if the driver is traveling 55 miles per hour.

• It has been shown that reaching for something inside the vehicle increases accident risk by 9 times. Texting while driving increases the risk of an auto accident by 23 times.

• 75% of U.S. drivers aged 18 to 29 reported they talked on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days, and nearly 40% reported that they talk on their cell phone “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.

How to prevent distracted driving

Many states are enacting laws banning texting while driving, and also using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring. You can view your state’s laws concerning texting and cell phone use here. Some great resources designed to help reduce distracted driving are available at disctraction.gov, the government’s website dedicated to reducing distracted driving. Additional resources are available at The National Safety Council, and also at AT&T’s Take the Pledge, where people enroll and pledge to never text and drive.

Distracted driving: You’re either part of the solution… or part of the problem.

While studies show drivers using phones are about four times more likely to cause a crash compared to drivers who do not, many drivers have not taken the advice. Statistics show that cell phone usage is still high for all drivers, not just teenagers. One thing you can do is to let your teen know they are accountable for their actions every time they get behind the wheel, and the huge responsibility that comes with it. It could mean the difference between life and death for them, their passengers or other drivers on the road. Distracted driving is not a problem to be taken lightly. To make the roads safer we all need to make the commitment. While we’ll never be able to eliminate all distractions while driving, working together to reduce them can make driving a much safer event for everyone involved.

Source: distraction.gov; nsc.org; ghsa.org; cdc.gov; caranddriver.com 

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