Every day across the US, there are on average around 16,438 automobile crashes. Out of this number, 30% of these result in serious/permanent injuries to the driver and passenger and 20% result in death. These are staggering numbers. Around 3,200 deaths a day from a mode of transportation that we, Americans, use almost every day of our lives. With all the benefits that come from driving it has considerable risks associated with it. Failing to take the right precautions and becoming a distracted driver can result in, otherwise, preventable accidents.
Distracted driving, specifically, has become a widespread epidemic, and as technology advances, it seems that the issue is only becoming worse. Prior to the rapid advancement of phones and in-vehicle gadgets, the maximum distraction would be adjusting the radio, eating and drinking, and perhaps making sure your kids stopped fighting in the backseat. With the addition of in-vehicle GPS, bluetooth, and a host of other add-ons and apps, it’s become much easier to get lost in the interface while driving, therefore increasing your chances of an accident. So, what exactly are the most common distractions?
The first is the most obvious which would be cell phone use. Most people don’t leave the house without their wallet/purse, keys, and smartphone. It’s become an unspoken rule to have these three items before stepping outside your home. Unfortunately, however useful that phone is to you, its use in the car automatically forces the driver to pay less attention to the road. Many accidents happen from individuals holding their phones in front of them and texting, which diverts their attention. However, a vast amount of motor vehicle accidents also happen because of a text or a phone call someone receives. Even the short amount of time it takes to look over to a phone and read a notification is enough to veer out of a lane, miss a turn, or even cause a fender bender during heavy traffic. With 1.6 million crashes being caused by cell phone use, surprisingly, only 25% are from texting and driving. How can you prevent this? When driving, put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or turn on “Car Mode” which blocks incoming notifications unless they are urgent or from specific individuals you have preselected. Cell phone accidents are entirely preventable and taking the right steps can help save your life and the lives of your passengers.
Another common driving distraction is the front console interface. Accounting for 200,000 accidents every year from the GPS portion alone, these accidents stem from faulty navigation maps, wrong locations, inaccurate directions, and distracted driving. Adjusting the car radio also accounts for a large number of accidents. It may not seem believable that turning your radio on and off may increase your risk, however, the few seconds between choosing your favorite song or changing the station can exponentially increase your likelihood of slamming the brakes in an emergency. Adjusting the radio physically with your hands isn’t the only way in which it can cause a distraction. Listening to your favorite song or talk show host can also negatively affect your awareness and cause you to be less attentive while driving. For example, if you enjoy listening to the news while you drive to work, a specific news story may cause you to experience a variety of emotions that may also impair your driving ability.
Lastly, eating food while driving remains the most dangerous on this list of common driving distractions, increasing your chances of a car accident by almost 80%. When eating in the car, you’re only able to have one hand on the wheel at a time, and when you take a bite of food your eyes move off the road. Eating while driving can also cause a mess and attempts to clean up can lower your awareness. When ordering food from a fast food restaurant, your safest bet is to simply eat in the parking lot and enjoy the food or wait until you reach your destination to grub out. It can save your life to hold off on that delicious burger or taco.
Even though technological advances are vying for our attention as we drive, technology is also helping us to reduce human error. With many new vehicles having motion-sensing, emergency brake assists, and lane-changing assistance, many accidents have been prevented within the past few years. It has helped us minimize the risks of driving and being distracted, yet there are more distractions now than ever before. Sitting in the car has become a balancing act of merging the two for most folks across the country. With distractions only increasing as time goes on, continuing to exercise good habits while we drive paired with car assistance technology can hopefully help us bridge that gap and further reduce the number of crashes and deaths around the US every year.