Thankfully, state laws have cracked down on texting while driving, and public awareness has made strides in educating that multi-tasking is really a myth; while our brains can quickly toggle between two tasks, we are simply unable to perform two tasks simultaneously.
Thousands of lives are tragically lost in fatal crashes each year. According to Injury Facts® 2014, the National Safety Council’s annual report on unintentional injuries, the three biggest causes of fatalities on the road include the following:
- alcohol (30.8 percent),
- speeding (30 percent), and
- distracted driving (26 percent).
The reality that all of these top causes are avoidable should grab our attention. But while it may not come as a surprise to you that distracted driving is close to equal with drunk driving and excessive speed when it comes to fatal car crashes, you just might be surprised to learn what falls under the category of distracted driving.
Many distractions are out there, but cell phone use has recently been ranked as the number one distraction. Let’s consider the following statistics:
- In 2010, an estimated 160,000 crashes involved texting or e-mailing with a handheld device.
- Interestingly, the NSC also reported that by 2011, there were more cell phone subscriptions than people in the United States!
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for almost five seconds.
Thankfully, state laws have cracked down on texting while driving, and public awareness has made strides in educating that multi-tasking is really a myth; while our brains can quickly toggle between two tasks, we are simply unable to perform two tasks simultaneously. So, you’re probably thinking: That’s why I never text while driving, which is great; however, there are more statistics to consider. Studies now show that the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to one third when merely listening on a phone. The following statistics from NSC.org should be of interest to all of us:
- Also during 2010, more than one million crashes involved just talking on a cell phone, which translates to one in every four crashes.
- At any given moment during daylight hours on the road, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS).
- Findings from a recent NSC public opinion poll show that 80 percent of drivers across the United States wrongly believe that hands-free devices are safer than using a handheld phone.
- Nonetheless, the reaction time with a hands-free device is slower than the reaction time of driver impaired at a .08 alcohol intoxication concentration.
According to the NSC, “distracted drivers using hands-free devices suffer from inattention blindness, delayed response and reaction times, and problems staying in their lane.” Inattention blindness is when drivers who use hands-free devices “fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment.” An AAA study revealed how the use of Siri is more distracting than speaking to a live passenger in the vehicle because a live person is another set of eyes with the ability to point out hazards or stop talking when driving conditions become challenging.
Therefore, before you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, not only remember how important it is to drive sober and to follow speed limits, but also consider how you should minimize your distractions for the sake of everyone on the roads. You are one of more than 275 million cell phone subscribers with 81 percent admitting to talking on the cell phone while driving. So, now you’re rationalizing: This is the twenty-first century; everybody does it! But are you old enough to remember 1996 when only 14 percent of us had cell phones? We survived . . . and planned ahead!
And before you think that saving time is saving money, consider one final statistic: According to Injury Facts, the average economic cost due to a crash was more than $1 million per death and more than $78,000 per nonfatal disabling injury. Likely, we can afford to turn off our cell phones and hands-free devices during commutes.