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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Distracted Driving and You - An Accident About to Happen.

Several months ago, I wrote on this site about teens and texting while driving. However, recent reports indicate that it is not just teens that are driving while distracted. Adults are too.

Full disclosure: In June of last year, I was rear-ended by a distracted adult driver, which caused me to learn more about this problem and prompted this piece.

Distracted driving has emerged as a disturbing trend that poses a serious threat not only to preoccupied drivers, but to other motorists on the roadways. Accidents caused by this unsafe practice have seen a major uptick in recent years due to the widespread use of smart phones to text and post to social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, while driving. Although drivers of all ages may be guilty of driving while distracted (see above), studies have found that teenage drivers are especially tempted to use their phone to snap photos or text from the driver's seat.

More than 3,300 fatalities occur each year as a result of distracted driving, according to the Department of Transportation and Distraction.gov, the official US website dedicated to distracted driving. Drivers are twice as likely to crash if they're texting while driving than if they were paying attention.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, with cell phone use being reported in 18 percent of all distraction-related fatalities in America. These scary statistics have led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to create an campaign against distracted driving aimed at young adults.

If you have teenaged children or you just happen to be up on current trends, you'll know that many people use their cell phones to take "selfies", a nickname for self-portraits. It's come to the attention of law enforcement and safety advocates that teens and older drivers are taking selfies and posting to social media while behind the wheel, some of them even use the hashtag #Ihopeidontcrash with their photos. Expressing that fear, even though it's disguised with a supposedly amusing hashtag, shows that these drivers have an inkling as to how dangerous this practice could be.

On average, texting takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Distraction.gov says that at 55 mph, 4.6 seconds with your eyes on your cell phone is like driving an entire football field blindfolded.

Distracted driving falls into three main categories:

  • manual: taking your hands off of the wheel
  • visual: taking your eyes on the road
  • or cognitive: not being mentally present while driving.

Distracted driving laws vary by state, but many (including New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) ban drivers from using handheld phones. In addition, most states ban bus drivers and beginner drivers from all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free), and enforce a ban on texting for all drivers.

With the July 4th holiday fast approaching, you and your family are probably taking to the road for vacation or just to get away for the long weekend. Make it a safe trip and avoid distracted driving. After all, I may the driver in front of you.


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