In our high-tech world, there are more and more instances of driver distractions that contribute to car accidents, some of them fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008, there were an estimated 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries attributable to distracted driving. If anything, the actual number is likely higher because distractions can be hard to quantify and the true number of accidents caused by driver distractions is difficult to define.
Our changing driving habits and increased dependence on technology have steadily raised the number of potentially dangerous distractions. Consider the attention-diverters in your own car: Radio and climate controls, cell phones and navigation systems. Matters are complicated further when there is more than one distraction, such as eating while trying to discipline a child in the backseat.
Furthermore, the National Safety Council released a white paper in early 2010, discussing the effects of cell phone usage while driving, and the news is not good. The white paper pulled information from at least 30 different scientific studies, and the results showed that cell phones have quickly become one of the leading driver distractions, even when drivers opted for “hands-free” devices. The NSC reveals that cell-phone usage causes the driver to multi-task and weakens the brain’s ability to capture driving cues. The overwhelming result is impaired driving performance.
Because of the grim data, many states have placed restrictions on drivers’ use of cell phones. The number of wireless phone users in the U.S. has grown from five million in 1990 to more than 200 million today, and surveys show that 85% of these people use cell phones when behind the wheel. In fact, calls from moving vehicles account for half of all cellular air time use.
So what can you do to avoid falling into this trap? Below are some important anti-distraction tips:
- Keep your eyes on the road. Consider the possibility of turning your cell phone off while behind the wheel.
- NEVER text while driving.
- Keep your hands on the wheel by programming your favorite radio stations, and arranging tapes and CDs in an easily accessible spot. Don’t attempt to retrieve objects that have fallen on the floor while driving.
- Teach your children the importance of good behavior in the car.
- Avoid eating and drinking while driving. If you must, choose easy-to-handle foods and keep beverages in a nearby cup-holder.
- Designate the front-seat passenger to serve as navigator rather than fumbling with maps and navigation systems yourself.
- Take a break if you find yourself lost in thought.
- Avoid stressful or confrontational conversation while driving.