When it comes to driving, distracted driving is a deadly game.
In fact, it takes less than a second of distracted driving to cause a wreck.
It can include looking down, glancing at a text on your phone, or even checking the rearview mirror to see what the kids are up to.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that sending or reading a text at 55 mph is tantamount to driving the length of a standard football field with your eyes shut.
Of course, most of us believe we are safe drivers who never get distracted while driving.
But a recent article in the Los Angeles Times found that digital distraction is actually driving a big increase in highway deaths.
It comes after decades of decreasing fatality rates. In recent years, American roads have become markedly more hazardous.
In 2021, for instance, crashes killed nearly 43,000 people – a figure that’s up from 33,000 in 2012. In fact, the 2021 figure was a 16-year high.
At the same time, the U.S. market is being flooded with new interactive technology that is joining the cell phone in tempting drivers to glance away from the road and enhancing distracted drivers.
In other words, as the Times put it, we’re collectively in a state of cognitive overload off – and on – the road.
Modern cars are filled with technology. It’s on the driver’s and passengers’ phones and also within other digital interfaces.
These include touch screens, interactive maps, and nested menus that can demand a driver’s attention.
So how do we maintain focus behind the wheel in an age of interactive technology inside and outside the car?
As stated by the National Safety County (NSC), other technology is part of the solution, it turns out.
New technology found in most new luxury cars includes innovative safety features such as lane-departure warning and blind spot detection, among other features to minimize inattentive driving.
But good old fashioned common sense is probably our best tool. In other words “just say no” to behaviors that cause inattentive driving.
Turning off the phone may be your best line of defense.
The National Safety Council reported in 2020 that cell phones were involved in more than a quarter of all crashes.
And a poll by Nationwide Insurance showed that agents reported that they believed half of all crashes they dealt with involved some sort of distracted driving.
And it’s just getting worse.
Distracted driving involves multiple types of distraction, according to the Money Geek website:
• Visual: This happens when you, the driver, take your eyes off the road to look at something inside or outside the car. For instance: looking at your GPS or staring at an accident on the road.
• Manual: This is anytime the driver takes one or both hands off the wheel to do a task unrelated to driving such as grabbing a cell phone, taking a sip of water, or a bite of a burger. Or brushing your hair.
• Auditory: Auditory distractions are equally important and include using air buds while driving. They can cause us to miss sirens, honks from other vehicles, or rumble strips on the highway warning us that we are getting too close to the edge. They can also include a child crying in the back seat.
• Cognitive: This is simply when the driver is not focused, something that is essential when operating a two ton vehicle. Cognitive distractions include spacing out, daydreaming, talking to passengers, or chatting on the phone.
Texting, of course, is a main culprit because it involves visual, manual, and cognitive distractions all at the same time, according to the website.
So what’s the answer? Simply stop these behaviors. Turn the phone off, don’t eat in the car while driving, don’t use air buds when you are, tell people you can’t get caught up in conversations and also take time to breathe and focus.
Remember you are operating heavy machinery and lives are at stake. For more information from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on how to stop distracted driving, click here.
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