It may only take a few seconds to check your phone for a text message or open an email. But looking away from the road even momentarily can lead to a catastrophic accident. And the research backs this up.
Recent statistics show that approximately one-quarter of all car accidents involve cell phone use — that’s approximately 1.5 million accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average person who sends or reads a text takes their eyes off the road for five seconds. Although five seconds may not seem like a long time, when going 55 mph, it’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field without looking. Distracted driving has led to hundreds of thousands of accidents, many of which cause fatalities.
Types of Distractions
Any activity that takes your eyes off the road and diverts your attention away from driving is considered distracted driving. Activities, such as eating, putting on makeup and fiddling with the radio can all distract you from what you’re doing. But the use of cell phones has greatly increased distracted driving accidents. Checking emails, making and answering calls and texting both distract you and take your eyes off the road.
Who is at Risk for Distracted Driving?
Teens and young adults tend to be more likely to drive distracted than older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers under age 20 have the highest number of fatalities related to distracted driving. In a 2015 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, 42 percent of high school students admitted they have recently texted while driving. What’s also alarming is the study revealed that teens who admit to texting when driving also have higher incidences of drinking and driving and not wearing their seatbelt.
Commercial drivers are also at risk for distracted driving. Commercial drivers spend long hours on the road, which may increase the likelihood of reaching for a cell phone to check a message or send a quick text.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commercial drivers who used a cell phone or texted while driving were six times more likely to be involved in a crash, unintentional lane deviation or a near-crash. Distracted driving is so deadly that a federal law was enacted which restricts the use of handheld devices by commercial drivers. Commercial drivers can only use voice-activated devices.
What Can You Do to Prevent Distracted Driving?
Driving is not the time to multitask. Operating a motor vehicle requires your full attention. There are several things you can do to decrease the chances of distracted driving accidents.
Lead by example: Although teens and young adults are at risk for being involved in distracted driving accidents, they are not the only ones. Lead by example and don’t text or check emails when driving. Talk to your kids frequently about the dangers of driving distracted even before they get their drivers license.
Become educated: Certain states have laws against handheld cellphone use while driving. Know the laws in your state or proposed legislation, and support bills restricting cell phone use. For example, some states ban all cellphone use for novice drivers. Strong legislation can help prevent distracted driving accidents and fatalities.
Get an app: The use of smartphones has played a role in the increase in distracted driving accidents. But your cell phone can also help in stopping distracted driving. Distracted driving apps may be especially helpful for parents of teens and young drivers along with employers of commercial drivers. Distracted driving apps block incoming calls and text messages. The apps can be set up to start once the car is in motion.
Many of the apps allow for navigation, and most also have an emergency unlock feature, which allows the driver to make a call. A text message is sent to parents or employers when the app is disabled. Some apps have additional features, such as a text notification when the driver reaches their destination.
The NHTSA estimates that during daylight hours, about 700,000 people are using their cellphones while driving. That means there is a lot of potential for distracted driving accidents. If you or a family member has been involved in an accident due to distracted driving, we have the knowledge and experience to help. Call our office at 312-698-3694 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.