Spotlight On Safety

Stop Accidents Before They Stop You

Distracted Drivers

Distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle accidents, including the use of cell phones/texting. So, what exactly is distracted driving? According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), distracted driving is any visual or auditory activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. Examples of distracted behaviors include texting, using a cell phone, eating/drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching videos, adjusting a radio, smoking, etc. There are three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most dangerous for both the driver and all others on the road. The human brain cannot effectively perform two cognitively complex tasks simultaneously, such as driving and talking on a cell phone. Drivers using cell phones (both hands-free and handheld) tend to “look at” but not really “see” objects. Estimates indicate that drivers using cell phones look at but fail to “see” up to 50% of their driving environment information.

These are some of the consequences of being a distracted driver:

Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to be in a crash. About one out of every four motor vehicle crashes involves cell phone use. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 26% of crashes involve talking on handheld and hands-free cell phones. Hands-free is not risk-free. Hands-free phones do not eliminate cognitive distraction. Sending a text or email message while driving draws a driver’s eyes, mind, and hands away from the road. Driving distracted is as dangerous as driving intoxicated.

So, what can we do?

Pay attention. Avoid distractions like texting, talking on the phone, or playing games while driving. Pull over and park in a safe location if a call or text is necessary. Change your voicemail greeting to inform callers you are on the road and will return their call when you can do so safely. Prepare before you drive. Review maps, adjust your radio, eat, and make any phone calls needed before you drive.