THE DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
February 19th, 2018 | Michelle M. Quinn
How long does it take to read this rather short, not so complicated sentence? A little under five seconds. But if you’re driving at 45 miles per hour while reading it, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field – three hundred feet -- without looking at the road. It sounds incredibly dangerous, and it is. Yet at any given moment during the day, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the United States.
Surprisingly, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated. One out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. In 2016, there were 3,450 distraction-related deaths. Over 350,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by distracted driving.
It’s important to keep in mind that hands-free technologies don’t eliminate distracted driving dangers. These technologies can mentally distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel. Research shows that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task.
Distractions Other Than Cell Phones
Although cell phone use is the most common form of distracted driving, HKQ Law Attorney Michelle M. Quinn points out that it’s certainly not the only one. Drivers can also be distracted by:
- Changing the music
- Checking their GPS or a map
- Adjusting seat belts
- Eating and drinking
- Putting on makeup or grooming
- Talking to passengers in the car
- Searching through a purse or wallet
- Adjusting temperature controls or mirrors
- Pets in the car
- Noisy children
- Using a complex car infotainment system
In short, anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or your hands off the wheel is a distraction.
Teenagers are more susceptible to distracted driving crashes than adults are. An analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that distracted driving contributed to over half of automobile crashes involving teen drivers. NIH-funded researchers found that novice teen drivers were eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing a phone; seven or eight times more likely when reaching for a phone or other object; almost four times more likely when texting; and three times more likely when eating. A teen driver with one passenger doubles the risk of getting into a fatal car accident. With two or more passengers, they are five times as likely.
Dangerous… and Unlawful
Distracted driving isn’t just dangerous. Depending on the state, it may also be unlawful. In Pennsylvania, it is a primary offense for motorists to use interactive wireless communication devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants and portable or mobile computers to send, read or write messages while a vehicle is in motion. A primary offense allows a police officer to pull motorists over even if no other violation is involved. The summary offense for texting while driving carries a $50 fine. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 75 § 3316)
Here are some ways to reduce driving distractions:
• Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle.
• Finish grooming – and eating – at home.
• Secure children and pets before you get started. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely.
• Secure loose items which could roll around in the car, and create a distraction.
• Adjust mirrors, temperature, sound system, GPS and other settings before you start driving.
• Pay attention to the road. Use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers.
• Don’t use cell phones while driving, except in absolute emergencies.
• Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet while driving.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529 to schedule your no-obligation consultation.