Distracted driving constitutes any and all activities that direct a driver’s attention away from the road, surrounding vehicles, and/or surrounding conditions that require focus for a driver to be safely operating his/her motor vehicle. Most often, when one thinks of a distracted driver, the image comes to mind of an individual with a hand on the wheel, phone in the other, while eyes dart back and forth between road and screen, seemingly far more concerned with the screen. But distracted driving goes well beyond the texting, checking an email, and making a phone call. Not to downplay the risk these cell phone related activities pose to someone behind the wheel, but even routine things like changing a CD can put lives in danger. Maybe yours. Maybe someone else’s. Maybe both. It only takes one-second for everything to change when driving a car.
It is a common misconception that is distracted driving is only associated with inexperienced, text-obsessed teenage drivers. Distracted driving is not just a teen problem; it is an everyone problem according to Joel Feldman, founder of the nonprofit endDD.org. According to endDD.org, only 18 percent of distracted driving fatalities can be attributed to cellphone use, just about everything else accounts for the other 82 percent: eating and drinking; talking with other passengers; grooming; reading; using your vehicle’s navigation system; and, as mentioned before, adjusting your music. Sure, many states have laws prohibiting drivers from using cell phones while operating a car, but it would be outrageous to expect legislators to wrestle with the language for an “anti-CD changing statute,” besides reckless driving charges can include some of those above mentioned distractors. Thus, it is extremely important for all drivers to take it upon themselves to eliminate their own distracted driving practices. Doing so could make the difference between being responsible for a serious car accident, and avoiding certain collision.
Distracted driving is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths and close to 450,000 injury-producing motor vehicle accidents each year in the United States, and studies predict these instances are on the rise. A way to curb this negative and unsafe outlook is to educate teens before they drive by setting a solid, safe example in the car. The reality is kids are impressionable, and will likely model their driving behavior after those they most frequently see behind the wheel, typically their parents. If you, as a parent, are always shaving on the way to school, your children will retain and replicate the notion that multi-tasking while driving is acceptable behavior. With that being said, teens are also the key to breaking the distracted driving cycle. By imbedding safe driving practices in the next generation of drivers, we can make a huge improvement in reducing the frequency of serious car accidents on American streets, thoroughfares, and interstates.
Ironically, for those with a smartphone, there are a handful useful cell phone applications (“apps”) available to help drivers quell their distracted driving tendencies. A few allow for handsfree use of the phone by reading texts and emails aloud, while others lock the phone, completely preventing texts, emails, calls, and unsafe distractions from coming through. Further, some can detect when users are moving over a certain speed, indicating the user is in a car, and also send an automated reply to texts and emails, similar to an “out-of-office” message alert. Keep these tools in mind if you need a little extra help in putting an end to cell phone use in the car.