Remaining sober behind the wheel is only half the battle when it comes to being a safe driver. It’s a lesson in driving that’s been there as long as we could remember, “keep your eyes on the road.”
Distracted driving refers to any instances where your eyes, mind, and attention is off the road at any time. It’s an enormous risk as taking your eyes or attention off the road makes any driver 400% chance more likely to become involved in an auto accident. Some sources say it can go as high as 600%. Honestly, the fact the percentage is over 100 says how enormous the risk is driving distracted.
The most prominent and serious cases of distracted driving are because of people texting on their phones while driving. Three years ago, there was a recorded 36,750 traffic deaths. 5.7% of these fatalities would be caused by texting and driving. It even accounts for those simply talking on the phone behind the wheel. Using a phone, whether to talk or text, takes a considerable amount of attention away from driving.
Over the last 10 years, there has been an increase in people texting while driving. Especially with the new makes and models of smartphones, people are even browsing the web or checking emails behind the wheel. Phones have effectively gone from personal communication devices to small personal computers.
What constitutes distracted driving?
Distracted driving claims thousands of lives annually, with a million more injuries at the same time. This kind of driving happens when the driver is distracted from the road in at least one way.
Here are the three ways a driver can be distracted when behind the wheel:
- Visual. When the driver takes their eyes off the road, they are visually distracted. It could be to read a billboard, watching the sidewalks, or looking at a phone screen.
- Manual. When the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel to reach for something-say a phone. They’re not paying attention to the manual functions of the car.
- Cognitive. The driver is mentally spacing off, or their mind is elsewhere. They are perhaps planning a birthday party or deciding what to text a friend back since the phone just made a notification tone.
- Miscellaneous. Anything from eating in the car to constantly messing with the radio can be examples of distracted driving. Simply talking on the phone hands-free may also constitute distracted driving.
If you noticed, cell phone usage is present in three of these examples. This is why texting and driving is the most distracting type of driving. Because it takes all of your attention-visual, manual, and cognitive off driving.
Why is texting while driving as serious as it is today?
The rate of distracted drivers on the road has always had a present increase. 391,000 people were injured as a result of distracted drivers in 2015. Three years later, it jumped up to 400,000. During that same year, it was reported that 2,800 people died from the same circumstance.
Now, over 3,000 people die each year-especially younger drivers. There are over 1.6 million crashes annually on account of texting and driving. If the numbers aren’t enough to convince you, then the simple fact is that distracted driving causes more accidents than drunk driving. Because when you’re drunk behind the wheel, your chances of getting into an accident don’t shoot up to 400%. However, the risk is still significant.
And much like drunk driving, there may be different state laws regarding driving while on the phone. 48 states are known to have regulations and penalties for texting and driving. Some outright ban answering a text while your car is in motion.
There’s also been several mainstream organizations and campaigns that brought the message against texting and driving to the general public. Knowing not to drive while texting is as common knowledge as knowing not to get behind the wheel intoxicated. Yet, there are still a number of individuals who do it.
States are cracking down on distracted drivers.
Much like drunk driving, each state has its own laws when it comes to texting and driving or being distracted behind the wheel.
For the most part, 48 states have legislation against texting and driving. Missouri and Montana are the only states with little to no enforcement on the matter. Arizona is the latest to pass any new enforcement. There’s a number of states (19) that have altogether banned the use of handheld devices when driving. Illinois, New York, and California are some of these states. This only applies to handling a device with a hand(s) off the steering wheel. Answering on speakerphone is allowed.
Of the 48 states that outlaw texting and driving, only five states have what is known as primary enforcement on them. Primary enforcement means that an officer wouldn’t need another reason to pull you over if they were to spot you driving distracted. For most states, it’s secondary enforcement wherein the officer may pull you over for another reason, like speeding or running a red light. The distracted driving may come to their attention later.
California is known for its more in-depth distracted driver laws. While the hand-held ban still stands, they also have restrictions on all cases of distracted driving. If a driver were to be driving while visually, manually, or cognitively distracted for any reason, then they may be ticketed. Two years ago, California passed a new law that would include a mark on driving records for drivers found to be distracted. To have this mark removed, the driver must attend a traffic school.
Now, let’s talk about how truly dangerous texting and driving can be.
Driving can be a task where every second matters. And when it comes to texting and driving, a second with your eyes off the road can instantly result in an accident. By now, we’ve mentioned the massive risk-taking your focus off driving for even a second.
Here’s the overwhelming evidence that texting and driving is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do:
- More frequent than drinking and driving. Consuming alcohol and driving poses a 90% chance of getting into a car accident. However, texting and driving don’t just increase the risk but flat out doubles it. An inebriated driver at least tries to pay attention to the road. With texting and driving, there’s absolutely no focus. Owning a cell phone also isn’t illegal for drivers under 21.
- Little to no attention to the road. As is constantly stressed, what makes texting and driving so dangerous is that the driver isn’t even paying attention to the road. A driver should always have visual, manual, and cognitive focus when driving their car. Texting is a task that requires all three of these focuses as well. One look away is all you need to go over a curb, slide onto the shoulder, or even into a tree.
- More advanced smartphones. Smartphones have become more advance with each new model. Now, we have the ability to check e-mails, access the internet, and even do work on the go.
- Greater risk in teens. Another thing that drunk and distracted driving have in common is a higher risk in younger drivers and teens. 21% of traffic-related incidents are caused by a teen driver texting behind the wheel.
Why do people continue to text and drive in traffic?
The general message of not texting while driving has seen mainstream recognition. It’s stressed just as much as not driving while drunk. Both old and new drivers are aware of the risks if they were to send a quick text message while driving, yet some still do it. 34% of young drivers admit to texting or using their phones while behind the wheel. Annual crashes continue to pass 1 million as a result. A survey also showed that 94% of new drivers were educated about the dangers of phone use while driving thoroughly in what has become a regular part of driver’s education.
A driver may continue to text and drive due to the simple urge for a quick response or perhaps a dependency on their phone. Firstly, 9 out of 10 young drivers claim that when they receive an email or text message, then they feel they must respond almost instantly. It’s a pressure some people feel to be timely with their responses. It helps to talk about it with other drivers who feel the same pressure. It’s not a unique feeling and not worth causing a car accident over.
Second to that is phone addiction. Phone addiction is best defined as simply not being able to function without checking your phone. Or, they’re simply always on it-at meals, meetings, and other times of social interaction. Around 50% of young drivers claim to be addicted to their phones in some form-taking multiple looks an hour. Remember, your phone and notifications aren’t going anywhere. The fact that phones today are portable web browsers doesn’t help at all.
Another interesting statistic showing why drivers continue to text and drive is that 77% of teens say that their parents text and drive themselves. That’s 77% of older drivers driving distracted essentially. With texting and driving affecting both age groups, there’s partial responsibility to lead by example to normalize the practice. 94% of drivers are in favor of laws against phones and any other handheld device use when driving.
What could a texting and driving accident do to my insurance?
If you were found to be distracted driving in the event of an accident, the liability would fall on you. Because of this, texting and driving can have adverse effects on your insurance rates. Your premiums can raise an average of 21.65% or $315. This charge can last on your policy for up to 3 years. The total cost can go up to $1,772. It’s similar to having a traffic violation.
A couple of other ways your insurance can be affected by distracted driving is if you get a second ticket after the accident. By now, all states penalize distracted driving with significant rate increases from $250 to $900. A distracted driving violation in Connecticut can go up to $1,083.61.
Let’s compare texting and driving to drinking and driving in-depth.
The comparisons to drinking and driving have been nonstop. When it comes to state penalties and policing, texting and drinking behind the wheel are handled similarly. Insurance generally responds to both with premium increases. Because, above all, texting and drinking are preventable offenses on the driver’s part.
Despite that, texting and driving are more dangerous because:
- Texting while driving increases the chances of an accident by 600%. That’s 6 times more likely than a drunk driver causing an accident.
- The attention to the road that is reduced by texting and driving is undeniable. Taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds alone is a 400% chance of an accident.
- Teens and young drivers are the most at-risk groups for both texting and driving while driving. Also, like drunk driving, the risk of an accident increases based on the number of people in the car.
- Thousands of traffic deaths each year are attributed to texting and drunk drivers. More than 3,1666 distracted driving deaths were reported in the previous years. Drunk driving fatalities exceed 10,000 each year.
- Each year, drunk and distracted driving is responsible for billions of dollars in damages: $129 billion for distracted driving and $132 billion for intoxicated driving. They’re extremely close in value.
Driving accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for teens and young drivers.
Regardless of the cause of fault, traffic accidents are responsible for the largest number of teenage drivers’ deaths. 5 years ago, the figure for those ages 16 to 19 killed in a car collision was over 2,000. That’s a large percentage of the annual average of 3,1666 total drivers.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of survivors are sent to intensive care facilities to treat their injuries. A study found that if a teen texts while driving, 10% of their driving time won’t even be spent in their lanes. At that point, so many other drivers become at risk just as you are. Despite that and the general knowledge that it isn’t safe, drivers continue to try their luck.
How do we prevent texting and driving?
The message to not text and drive is as household as remembering to wear your seatbelt or not drive drunk. As with both those cases, there’s still a considerable percentage of people still doing it. By now, you’re educated on who, why, how, and where.
Now, here are some things that will educate you on what to do:
- Practice, don’t preach. Leading by example is something that 77% of the older drivers who text and drive can do for their kids and younger drivers. Place your cell phone in the glove compartment and answer calls via the automatic phone in the car completely hands-free.
- Keep your eyes on the road. It’s a day one driving school lesson, eyes on the road. It helps to keep all the different types of focus we’ve gone over in mind and practice and at least two at a time for safe driving.
- See what technology can offer. The message of distracted driving has reached tech companies, and now, phones and cars are built with communication remedies so you may keep your hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road. Features include car phones, on-screen GPS, and specialized Apps that let anyone who texts you know that you can’t come to the phone in the driver’s seat.
- Remind anyone driving. If you were a passenger of a driver who uses their phone behind the wheel every now and then, please let them know. You’re not only looking out for yourself but the driver and anyone else who may be in the car.
In the end, the objective is to save lives by driving with both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road. The statistics and figures of distracted driving may be enough to warrant an epidemic. But fortunately, with any epidemic comes a universal message of prevention.