April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month. As attorneys and residents of the growing NW Arkansas region, we see all to often deadly examples of how dangerous it is to talk on the phone or text while driving. As you may have heard recently, texting is the “new drunk driving.” According to a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) analysis, each day, approximately 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 are injured because of a distracted driver. The CDC also notes that 52% of U.S. drivers ages 18-29 reported texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or e-mailing “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 (their most recent study) 5,474 people were killed due to driver distraction. An additional 448,000 were injured due to driver distraction. This means that 16% of all fatal crashes and 20% of all accidents across the country in 2009 involved distracted drivers. Other studies suggest:
- Teen drivers are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported (16% of all teen crash fatalities in 2009)
- Drivers on the phone are four times more likely to crash
- Texting or emailing creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted
- Using a cell phone while driving—whether it’s hand-held or hands-free—delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind
Not only are Drivers Texting, they are Surfing
In December 2011, State Farm Insurance released the results of a 900 person survey that they conducted. The results showed that the use of mobile Web services has significantly increased in the past two years. The data showed that, for all drivers, accessing the Internet while on a cell phone increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2011, and from 29 percent to 43 percent for drivers 18 to 29. The mobile Web is a growing issue for safety advocates concerned about distractions while driving,” said David Beigie, State Farm public affairs vice president.
Tips for Managing the Distractions
Here are some tips taken from endDD.org. These will help you manage some of the most common distractions while driving:
- Turn It Off – Either turn off your phone or switch to silent mode before you get in the car.
- Pull Over – If you need to make a call, pull over and stop in a safe area first.
- Deputize Your Passengers – Ask your passengers to answer or make calls for you. Conversely, if you are a passenger, offer to answer the driver’s phone.
- X the Text – Don’t ever text and drive, surf the Web or check email. It is dangerous and against the law in most states.
- Prepare – Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger or pull over to review your directions again.
- Secure Your Pets – Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
- Keep the Kids Safe – Pull over if you need to address situations with your children in the car.
- Focus on the Task at Hand – Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off your driving.