Crashes involving distracted drivers took the lives of more than 3,300 people and injured another 387,000 people in 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says. Because the government, the media and various organizations have been raising awareness about texting as a dangerous driving distraction, some form of cellphone-related activity is what many people call to mind when they hear the term “distracted driving.” But, did you know that there are many other distractions that also can pose a threat?
NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. The organization names the following as driving distractions:
- Text messaging
- Using a smartphone or cellphone
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to other people in the car
- Grooming (doing your makeup, flossing your teeth)
- Reading — including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting gadgets, like your radio or CD player
If you commute to work on a busy road, you may see drivers doing everything from shaving or putting on makeup to eating and reading the paper behind the wheel. In our busy, over-scheduled and fast-paced world, the automobile has become another place where people try to multitask — but holding those activities until you are safely parked may help save a life.
Consider this: Reaching for your phone while behind the wheel increases your likelihood of getting into an accident by nine times, according to a study by NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation institute.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Parents, educators and organizations in the community are working to teach young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, focusing especially on text messaging. Teens even have the option of signing a pledge not to text and drive by clicking here.
But, no matter what your age, it’s important to concentrate on your driving. The Department of Motor Vehicles in Washington D.C., a place known for its busy roadways and heavy traffic, has compiled the following safety tips for drivers to avoid distractions.
- Avoid eating in the car. If you’re focusing on your breakfast, you aren’t giving your full attention to the road.
- Wait to adjust the radio, heat, air conditioner and mirrors until you’re pulled over in a safe place.
- Glare from the sun can be a major driving distraction. If you’re driving in bright sunlight, be sure to wear sunglasses.
- Don’t talk on your cellphone, send a text, check your email or read while driving.
- Don’t play the radio at an excessive volume. Loud music might prevent you from hearing sirens or emergency vehicles.
What if you have a hands-free device? It’s still a danger, according to NHTSA officials, because if you’re focusing on a conversation, even if your hands are free, you could still miss seeing or hearing something important.
Remember, any split-second distraction could result in an accident. The car is not the place to multitask. Your safety and the safety of others is more important than making a phone call, sending a text or trying to eat dinner behind the wheel.
This guest post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.