Driving safely can be challenging enough, even when a driver is paying attention to the road and potential hazards. Add even one distraction and the chances of crashing increase significantly. In 2009, distracted driving was a factor in 5,474 traffic fatalities nationwide (16% of total fatalities) and an estimated 448,000 injuries, according to FARS and GES.
Anything that takes the driver's attention off the road is a distraction. Some common distractions include cell phones, eating, navigating, reading, drinking, changing music, talking to passengers or tending to children, adjusting car settings, applying make-up, reaching for something in the vehicle or looking at something away from the roadway.
For teens, texting while driving is the number one distraction, though drivers of all ages are driving while using their phones. The National Safety Council estimates that 1.4 million crashes each year involve drivers using cell phones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year involve drivers who are texting.
With so many potential distractions, a driver's attention may easily get diverted if the driver isn't making a conscious effort to stay focused on the road. It just takes one time of looking away for a brief moment to cause a disaster.
Warning Signs and What to Do
A key warning sign to watch for is when you notice that you are focused on anything other than the roadway or the vehicles around you. Are you paying too much attention to the cell phone or radio and not enough attention to the road? If so, it's just not worth it. Anything can wait so that you and your family can arrive safely.
- Focus only on driving.
- Have a passenger do the other activities of answering the cell phone, changing the CD, navigating, etc.
- The safest time to use your cell phone in the car is when you reach your destination and have stopped.
- Make adjustments to your vehicle's mirrors, temperature settings, seat positioning, etc., before you hit the road.