Although there are many types of distractions to driving (eating and drinking, visiting with passengers, playing with the radio and even drowsiness), one of the most notable among current distractions is the use of cellphones while driving. That quick five second glance at the screen of your phone may not seem like much, until you realize that you’ve traveled the distance of a football field in that time – without looking at the road! Any distraction from the task of driving is a danger and could lead to car accidents, injuries or deaths.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving. This is a scary statistic and it isn’t alone. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 69 percent of American drivers admitted to using a cellphone while driving at least once during the month before and that a third of those drivers were culpable of using their cellphone while driving, as well as texting while driving. Compared to other countries, drivers in the United States were the most distracted by cellphone use.
About 3.8 percent of drivers used handheld cellphones while driving and 2.2 percent of drivers can be seen using their devices while also driving. A large percentage of those drivers using cellphones fall into the younger driver categories, but adults in their thirties and forties are also responsible for this dangerous driving behavior. Although the percentages may seem small, the consequences of that distracted driving are not.
Consider the fact that drivers are responsible for maneuvering two tons of metal and components down a road at speeds between 25 to 75 miles per hour. Taking your eyes off the road for even a couple of seconds can be dangerous, even on a narrow dirt road. Using a cellphone is even more dangerous than fiddling with the radio or adjusting the temperature. If your phone is tucked in your pocket or slightly out of reach, responding to a phone call or text can be a distraction for several minutes. In one year, 3,331 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted driver and close to 400,000 people were injured. The correlation between deaths/injuries and cellphone use has prompted many states to pass and enforce laws prohibiting the use of cellphones by drivers.
According to the National Institutes of Health, cellphone use while driving reduces the self-awareness of the driver, increased the number of driving errors made and decreased the drivers’ awareness of safety while driving. Even if the driver was talking, rather than texting, cellphone use takes the drivers’ attention away from the task of driving. The American Psychological Association reports that the use of a cellphone increases the likelihood of accidents four-fold. Drivers on the phone reacted to road conditions more slowly and that, even when the drivers’ eyes were on the road, they weren’t really “seeing” the road in front of them.
The increasing number of drivers using cellphones while driving has inspired many states to take strong action against the use of devices. Many laws have been written and are being enforced in attempts to reduce the use of phones on the road. Many organizations are involved in research and efforts to convince drivers not to drive while distracted. Have you made the commitment to keep your attention focused on the road? Will you put your cellphone out of sight while driving? Will you join that ranks of those who hope to increase the safety of everyone on the road?