Distracted Driving Puts Us All at Risk

Distracted Driving Facts from the official US Government website for distracted driving:

  • In 2011 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010.
  • 10% of injury crashes in 2011 were reported as distraction affected crashes.
  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.Distracted_Driving_Accident
  • Sending or receiving a text takes drivers eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent, at 55mph, of driving the length of an entire football field – blind.
  • Headset cellphone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.  All distractions can endanger the driver, passengers and bystanders.  Examples of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using your navigation system (in-car system or smartphone)
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting your car stereo system.

Any activity that takes the person’s attention away from driving is considered a distraction. Texting is by far the most alarming driver distraction because text messaging requiresSeriously_Distracted_Drivingvisual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. However, talking on your cell phone is just as dangerous, even if it is hands-free.  People cannot perform two cognitive tasks well at the same time.

A cognitive task is one that requires our brain skills to process an influx of information as we receive it.  Driving alone is considered a cognitive task, because we have to process the road, other cars, where we are going, etc.  A driver who is having a phone conversation is trying to perform two cognitive tasks at the same time.

Think back to a time when you were driving and suddenly realized you don’t remember getting to your destination…it has happened to all of us.  This is the best example of our minds being somewhere else other than driving. We were focused on another cognitive task while driving and just going through the motions of driving, putting us and others at risk of an accident.  This is known as inattention blindness.  The mental images coming through the eyes to the brain are overwritten by the thought images of the words being spoken/heard or keyed.

Next time you go to reach for your cell phone to make or receive a call, think twice about the risk you are about to put not only yourself in, but the others around you.  If it is an emergency or important call, pull over and stop the car so that you can direct all of your attention safely to the conversation.  

Each state has a different law regarding the use of cell phones while driving.  The following are the regulations for the New England area.NE_Cellphone_Ban_Map

  • Massachusetts: Partial Ban.  Drivers under 18 no cell phone uses.  Ban for Bus drivers. Drivers required to keeping one hand on the wheel.  
  • New Hampshire: Partial Ban: Not explicitly banned, but you can be prosecuted if using a cellphone when involved in an driving accident
  • Maine: Minors and those on learner driving licenses may not use a cell phone while driving
  • Vermont: None
  • Rhode Island: Governor Almond rejected a ban – July 2001. School buses are banned from using a cell phone. Proposal for a ban being debated.
  • Connecticut: Yes – banned with effect from Oct. 2005 – teens are also forbidden from using hands free kits while moving.

For more information on distracted driving, please visit the following websites:

www.trafficsafety.org

www.dristraction.gov

It could save your life or a loved one’s life!

 

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