According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents in the United States. In fact, in 2019 alone, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. These alarming statistics highlight the importance of staying focused while driving and avoiding distractions that can put yourself and others at risk.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from the task of driving. This can include anything from texting or talking on the phone to eating, drinking, or adjusting the radio. There are three main types of distractions:
- Visual distractions: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual distractions: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive distractions: taking your mind off driving
Examples of visual distractions include looking at a phone, GPS or map, or looking at a passenger in the car. Manual distractions can include anything from texting or adjusting the radio to eating or drinking. Cognitive distractions, on the other hand, occur when your mind wanders from the task of driving. For example, daydreaming, thinking about personal issues or work-related matters can be considered cognitive distractions.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of a car accident. When you take your attention away from the road, you reduce your ability to react to changing traffic conditions, such as a pedestrian crossing the street or a car swerving into your lane. This can lead to collisions, injuries, and even fatalities.
Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous distractions. Texting involves all three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Sending or receiving a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. If you’re driving at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. It’s no wonder that texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving
The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid distracted driving and keep yourself and others safe on the road:
- Put away your phone: One of the most effective ways to avoid distracted driving is to put away your phone while driving. If you need to make a call or send a text, pull over to a safe location and park the car before using your phone.
- Use hands-free devices: If you need to make a call while driving, use a hands-free device like a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone. This will allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
- Plan ahead: Before you start driving, plan your route and adjust your radio or other vehicle settings. This will reduce the need to take your eyes or hands off the road while driving.
- Avoid eating or drinking while driving: Eating or drinking while driving can be a dangerous distraction. If you need to eat or drink, pull over to a safe location and take a break.
- Ask for help: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distracted while driving, ask a passenger to help you with tasks like navigating or adjusting the radio.
- Stay focused: Keep your mind focused on driving and avoid engaging in other activities that can distract you from the task at hand.
- Educate yourself: Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving and the steps you can take to avoid it. Share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness.
Distracted driving is a serious issue that puts everyone on the road at risk. By taking steps to avoid distractions and staying focused while driving, you can help prevent accidents and ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road.