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Monday, March 29, 2021

Preventing Distracted Driving

I have an embarassing confession. I once got into two car accidents on the same hour long trip home. The first accident happened when I was already tired from a long day, and fortunately it was just a mild bumper to bumper accident with no damage. But because I was upset with myself for this accident, and the additional fact that I was already tired probably led me to getting into another accident not long after that, and this one did cause damage to the car I hit and I feel really embarrassed about that. Distracted driving is really problematic and while I only had material damages in my distracted driving accident, it can be deadly or cause serious injuries other times. Here are some suggestions from a reader as to how you can prevent this problematic occurrence when you drive.


Every day distracted driving claims the lives of eight people in the United States. Distracted driving occurs when drivers engage in an activity that takes their attention away from driving. This type of conduct has devastating impacts as each year around 3,000 people die and 400,000 are injured from crashes involving at least one distracted driver.

Distracted driving impacts not only drivers of the vehicles involved but also those outside the vehicle. For example, about one in five people killed in crashes involving a distracted driver were not inside a vehicle but rather walking or riding a bike.

It is important to identify different types of distracted driving so that drivers are aware and can correct their behavior before tragedy occurs.

Types of Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes distracted driving into the following types:
  • Manual–taking one or both hands off of the steering wheel;
  • Visual–taking your eyes off of the road; and
  • Cognitive–taking your mind off of driving.
The most dangerous distraction is one that comprises all three types.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions are those that physically require the driver to take one or both hands off of the steering wheel. Examples of manual distractions include:
  • Using a cell phone to text, call, or email;
  • Securing a seatbelt;
  • Adjusting the settings in the car;
  • Eating and drinking;
  • Smoking;
  • Assisting another passenger; and
  • Searching for personal belongings.
These types of distractions are incredibly dangerous because the driver has given up steering control of the vehicle.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions are engaging in any activity that takes your eyes off the road. Some examples of visual distractions are:
  • Looking at your cell phone,
  • Using a navigation system,
  • Grooming,
  • Adjusting the knobs on the car,
  • Observing other drivers,
  • Viewing the scenery,
  • Reading billboard advertisements, and
  • Searching for items in the car.
By taking your eyes off the road, you are no longer aware of traffic signals, pedestrians, or the cars around you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you send or read a text while driving at 55 miles per hour, that is like driving the length of a football field while closing your eyes.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions are anything that diverts your attention from concentrating on the road. Common cognitive distractions are:
  • Listening to music,
  • Talking to other passengers,
  • Thinking about work or family issues,
  • Using a hands-free device or voice-texting,
  • Being overly tired and drifting,
  • Driving while upset or angry,
  • Engaging in a serious conversation, and
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Cognitive distractions are particularly dangerous because we often do not realize we are distracted.

Most at Risk for Distracted Driving

Young adult and teen drivers are most at risk for driving while distracted. Young adults are those 20-29 years old and make up 25% of those involved in fatal crashes with a distracted driver.

Teens between the ages of 15 and 19 have the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash. The NHTSA reported that 8% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time. For this reason, in some locations teens and new drivers are banned from driving with more than one other person in the car, because the more friends in the car the more distractions.

How to Stop Distracted Driving

Many states have enacted legislation to help prevent distracted driving. For example, texting while driving is banned in 48 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, preventing distracted driving is ultimately up to the driver. Here are some tips to help drivers protect themselves and others from distracted driving.

Prepare for Your Drive

By preparing to get behind the wheel, you eliminate the chance of being distracted. The first step is to prepare yourself before you walk out of the door so that you are not tempted to fix your outfit or eat and drink while driving. Next, adjust your mirrors, seat, steering wheel, and heat or air conditioning. Secure any loose belongings that could roll around while you drive, and properly fasten children and pets.

Put Aside Electronics

Unless there is an absolute emergency, you should not be using an electronic device while driving. This includes cell phones, iPads, and navigation systems.
 
There is cell phone blocking technology that prohibits you from receiving a call or text message while driving and will send a message to the person trying to contact you alerting them that you are driving.

Note from Penny: electronics can even be a distraction if you don't answer it. When I was taking driving lessons, one time I nearly got into an accident (but didn't due to the driving teacher grabbing the wheel and pressing the brakes) because my cell phone rang, and even though I didn't answer it or even look at it, just the knowledge that someone was calling me and wondering who it was and if it was an emergency distracted me enough that I nearly had an accident. If you're driving alone and no one can answer the phone for you, turning your phone to silent or to the do not disturb setting can prevent accidents.
 
Listen to Your Body

If you feel tired, upset, or any emotion that is distracting you from the road, pull over. Fight the urge to engage in a serious or heated conversation while behind the wheel.

What to Do If You Are in an Accident

If you are in an accident because either you or another driver was distracted, remain calm. Check for any injuries, get to a safe place, and then contact the police. Make sure to document everything in the event you need to contact an accident injury law firm.

Have you ever gotten into an accident from distracted driving? What tips do you follow to make sure you don't drive while distracted and get into an accident?

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