It comes as no surprise that drunk driving is one of the most dangerous things motorists do today. According to the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “almost 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes.” That amounted to one person in every 50 minutes throughout 2016.
Other statistics further backing up the danger of drunk driving include the fact that 10,497 deaths were from alcohol-impaired driving accidents in 2016. Also, 28 percent of motor vehicle traffic deaths were caused by drunk driving. And even worse, 1,233 children 14 and under were killed in drunk driving collisions.
Drunk driving statistics are pretty alarming, but what is even more alarming is that it is not the only dangerous driving practice today. In fact, distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
An article from cdc.gov on motor vehicle safety defines distracted driving as “driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving.” Distracted driving is known to increase the likelihood of a motor vehicle crash.
Those distracting activities include, but are not limited to, things like using a cellphone (talking or texting), eating, drinking, adjusting the radio or other controls, or dealing with the navigation system or GPS. Basically, distracted driving is anything that takes a motorist’s attention away from the task at hand — driving.
Just like drunk driving, distracted driving has its fair share of alarming statistics. According to the cdc.gov article, about 9 people are killed each day in a crash involved with a distracted driver. Furthermore, over 1000 people are injured in those distracted driving crashes.
The NHTSA has collected even more statistics and compiled them on a distracted driving page. They have estimated that over 660,000 drivers use electronic devices during the day. In 2015, that led to 3,477 fatalities due to distracted driving.
The reason distracted driving is so dangerous is because of what can happen on the road in a matter of seconds. Texting or reading a text can take a motorist’s eyes off the road for approximately five seconds. Doing so while driving at a speed of 55 mph equals traveling the distance of an entire football field (end zones included) with closed eyes.
A lot can happen in that distance and that short amount of time.
It is also important to note that even though a lot of emphasis is put on cell phone use and distracted driving, the other activities drivers do are just as bad. In fact, one of the biggest causes of distracted driving fatalities is driver just being generally distracted or lost in thought, says an article on safestart.com.
Especially on long trips, a driver’s mind begins to wander or think about other things. Of course, lost in thought is not the only other frequent distraction motorists face. Having other occupants in the car can also lead to being distracted.
It may be children in the back seat demanding attention or wanting to know how much longer the ride is. Or it can be a group of close friends goofing off and demanding a change in the radio station or the temperature. Those distractions easily lead to a driver not paying attention to the road and the hazards it holds.
So when it comes down to it, the big question that remains is why do motorists feel it is okay to take their concentration off the road for other activities while driving? It has been surmised that the answer to that question is complacency.
As defined by the dictionary, complacency is “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This definition pretty much hits the nail on the head.
After earning your license and getting the opportunity to drive often, motorists get complacent or comfortable with the task. It is something that so many people wake up and do on a daily basis that it almost becomes routine. When it becomes routine people tend to leave out thoughts of how dangerous their actions can be, especially to others on the road.
On top of that, when it becomes routine, it makes it easier to do other dangerous driving practices. People feel they are good enough to drive even when just buzzed since it is something they can so easily do when sober.
Mix distracted driving with other circumstances like rushing to get somewhere on time or being tired after a long day of work. These further increase the dangers of distracted driving and the likelihood of an accident.
And while death is an unfortunate and common result of a distracted driving accident, there are other consequences that can be just as bad. Look back to the number of people injured by distracted driving in 2015 — it’s 391,000.
Those injuries may be small, like bumps and bruises but other injuries can be catastrophic. Distracted driving accidents can result in broken bones, internal bleeding or even head trauma. Sometimes those injuries can heal over time but sometimes those injuries can be so severe that it drastically changes someone’s life.
As the person who is responsible for a distracted driving accident, you may also be responsible for covering the cost of someone’s injuries and rehabilitation. The same goes for if a fatality is caused due to distracted driving.
The good news is that plenty of states are taking stands against distracted driving in a continued effort to keep everything and everyone on the road safe. The following states have placed a ban on the use of hand-held devices while driving: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.
While having these bans is a good first step for many states, ridding the roads of distracted driving comes down to each motorist. You need to be responsible and careful on the road and take the time to put the cell phone aside, tell your friends not to distract you while driving, or put someone else in charge of adjusting the radio and temperature controls. If everyone works toward driving safe, the roads will be a much easier place to travel.