What exactly is distracted driving? It is defined as basically anything that takes a driver’s attention away from driving. Any type of distraction can be a danger to everyone in the car as well as people near the vehicle. The most serious and concerning type of distraction currently is texting. This type of distraction is the most alarming because it requires the driver’s manual, cognitive and visual attention. Other common examples of distracted driving include: eating and drinking; using a navigation system; adjusting the radio; and using a mobile phone.
Eating and Drinking
People often eat or drink while driving. Consider the consequences of this: In order for a driver to eat or drink something he or she must remove one hand from the steering wheel in order to pick up the item. The driver must also look to see where the food or drink is so he or she can pick it up. This means that the driver’s eyes are taken away from the road. Some people even try to balance food in their lap while simultaneously holding onto the wheel. Again, the driver must repeatedly remove his or her eyes from the road in order to keep the food from falling as well as in order to eat it. Just looking for your food or drink so you can grab it can take three to five seconds which is the same amount of time it can take to text a friend. That one moment your eyes leave the road could lead to a serious accident. Is it worth it?
The majority of teens in today’s world communicate with friends and family via text messages. Adults use text messaging as well. Yet in order for a driver to send or receive a text, he or she must take their eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This amount of time is equivalent to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour while blind. It has also been determined that the risk for a crash is 23 times greater when text messaging than when the driver is not distracted. More than 50 percent of teens have admitted that they have text while driving. More than twenty-five percent of young adult drivers (ages 18 to 29) admit to frequently texting or sending emails while driving, and more than 50 percent of this age group do so at least once per month. That is a lot of texting and emailing while driving and it does not even include older adults. Anyone who texts or emails while driving puts everyone in the car and on the road at risk.
Using a Navigation System
Navigation systems help people to find their way through unfamiliar territory. Yet in order for many of the systems to do their job they must be at times adjusted by the driver. This takes the driver’s attention away from the road. If you need help finding your way and own a navigation system, try to have it fully programmed before you begin your journey. There are also hands-free navigation systems which are the least distracting type of navigation system available. Following these suggestions will help to minimize the amount you are distracted by your system when you are behind the wheel.
Adjusting the Radio
Listening to music or discussions on the radio or an iPod while driving a car is an extremely common occurrence. No matter what you prefer to listen to it is still considered a distraction. People often change radio stations to find a different song or fast-forward to a different song on an iPod. When the driver of a car does these things he or she must take his or her attention away from the road. If you are driving and have an iPod in your car that you want to listen to try to select your playlist before you begin driving. If you are driving and want to listen to the radio try to stay with your favorite station. These suggestions will help to at least limit the amount of distraction regarding these items.
Using a Mobile Phone
Cell phones, specifically smart phones, are incredible pieces of equipment. You can surf the World Wide Web as well as play games right on your phone. Yet this is exactly what makes them dangerous for drivers. When someone driving surfs the web or makes a phone call, their attention is not on driving. The person is distracted and distractions are dangerous. Hands-free mobile phones are definitely a better option if you must communicate with someone when you are driving or believe you absolutely need to surf the Web while driving. Consider though whether or not it really is a necessity. If it really isn’t essential to do while you are behind the wheel, wait till you stop for something such as gas. Remember that when you are a distracted driver it is never just your life at stake.
Teen Driver Safety (PDF)