The Distraction Epidemic: Does Anyone Just Drive Anymore?

  • By Sean

Just a couple decades ago, it would have been impossible to take a phone call while driving down the road – just imagine how long the phone cord would have been! However, that’s not the case today. Between phone calls, text messages, emails and social media, we’re more connected to the world around us than ever, and that connectivity is largely due to our cellphones and smart phones. Still, there’s growing concern that the distraction caused by smart phones is making our roadways increasingly dangerous. Does anyone just drive anymore?

The Basics of Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes distracted driving as any activity that takes your attention away from “the primary task of driving.” Distractions behind the wheel can endanger you, your passengers and others around your car. The NHTSA says there are three types of distraction that you face as a driver:

  • Manual: A distraction that takes your hands off the wheel.
  • Visual: A distraction that takes your eyes off the road.
  • Cognitive: A distraction that takes your mind off driving.

The NHTSA reports that text messaging, using a cellphone, eating or drinking, reading, talking to passengers, grooming, adjusting your stereo, watching a video and using a navigation system are all examples of distracted behavior. Of these distractions, texting is particularly concerning because it requires your manual, visual and cognitive attention.

How Distracted Driving Causes Accidents

In a survey conducted in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 25 percent of drivers in the U.S. admitted they talk on their cellphones “regularly or fairly often” while driving. Additionally, 9 percent gave the same response when they were asked how much they text or email when they’re behind the wheel.

The CDC reports that distracted driving is even more prevalent among younger drivers, noting that almost 40 percent of drivers ages 18 to 29 say they talk on the phone “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving. In addition, more than 25 percent of respondents in that age group say they text or email “regularly” or “fairly often” while operating a motor vehicle.

According to the NHTSA, the average driver takes his or her eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds when sending or receiving texts. In that amount of time, you could travel the length of an entire football field if you’re driving 55 mph. As a result, the likelihood of a crash is “23 times worse than driving while not distracted.” Additionally, NHTSA reports that using a cellphone or portable electronic device behind the wheel makes you four times as likely to get into a crash in which you’ll sustain injuries.

In 2010, distracted driving was linked to 18 percent of crashes that resulted in injury, according to NHTSA. Additionally, crashes that involved a distracted driver resulted in 3,092 deaths, while about 416,000 people were injured.

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

Because distracted driving is so dangerous, it’s important to take preventative steps to help keep our roads safe. The National Safety Council encourages us to stop using our cellphones while driving, and to share information about the dangers of distracted driving with friends and family. If someone calls you while they’re driving, the NSC also recommends telling them “that you’d be happy to continue the conversation once you have reached your destination.”

By avoiding distracting behaviors behind the wheel, you’re taking positive steps to help keep yourself and your passengers safe. The phone calls and texts can definitely wait until you’ve parked the car.

For more on distracted driving prevention, check out the Tools and Resources section on