These days, distracted driving is a very hot topic in the news: the Webb City car accident attorneys know all too well that it's a massive problem in Missouri and nationwide. Several recent studies liken distracted driving to drunk driving, in that both are epidemic problems, and both can be lethal. Research has shown that your risk of an accident is quadrupled when you talk on a cell phone while driving. "For comparison purposes, someone who's drunk at a 0.08 blood alcohol level has a four-time crash increase," says David Strayer, of the University of Utah. "So talking on a cell phone is about the same as driving drunk." When you're text messaging, the crash risk goes up to eight times."
According to a Leger Marketing study, most people are aware of the main causes of dangerous driving, like speeding or driving under the influence. However, they are not as aware of the lesser known causes of distracted driving, and thus not as vigilant about avoiding those behaviors. This lack of awareness is the catalyst for thousands of auto accidents (with resulting injuries and fatalities) every single year.
7 Main Causes of Distracted Driving
1. Cell Phone Use. As we've discussed in this blog and several others, cell phone use is one of the main causes of distracted driving. Everyone seems to know about the risk, but you still see people talking on the phone while driving everywhere you go. Although cell phones are still legal for Missouri drivers, they pose quite the safety risk. (Texting while driving is banned for those 21 and under.)
If you're still not convinced, take a look at Strayer's photographs: they simulate the difference between a focused driver and one who is distracted by a cell phone. Click here to see the focused driver's perspective, and here to see what the road looks like when the same driver starts talking on her phone.
2. Eating or Drinking. An unexpected bump, or a sudden need to swerve, speed up or slow down can cause a hot beverage to spill and distract a driver. Likewise, eating takes a hand off the wheel and attention off the road. Choosing to eat and drink while driving will directly increase your chances of causing an accident.
3. Grooming. We've all seen people applying makeup using the rear view mirror, and there have even been reports of people shaving while behind the wheel. This behavior is obviously dangerous and distracting.
4. Reading or Writing. Even a GPS system--which is supposed to make navigation easier--can pose danger, as you must take your eyes off the road to read it. Reading a map while driving can have the same disastrous consequences. Be safe and smart when you use these resources. A split second of inattention is all it takes to cause an accident.
5. Distractions Outside the Car. Police cars rushing by, sirens blaring; billboards; car accidents: there's a lot to see on Missouri roadways, and it's unbelievably easy to get distracted and lose focus while driving. Take care to keep your mind on the road in front of you, and use special caution when approaching and passing vehicles that have been involved in a collision. Many Missouri car accidents occur because of "rubbernecking," to use a local expression, meaning drivers are looking at an existing accident instead of traffic. And then they crash, too.
6. Pets. Many Jasper County residents love to take their pets on road trips, or to parks and lakes, or just to run errands. However, if a pet is unrestrained in your vehicle, it can easily block your rear view. A dog moving around or suddenly barking is a common source of distraction. Keep pets contained in your vehicle, for everyone's safety (including your pets')!
7. Passenger distractions. Maintaining focus while driving with crying children or arguing passengers can be difficult. Remaining calm and focused is essential: if you find yourself becoming distracted, consider pulling over to deal with the situation.
The Bottom Line
Statistics have indicated that 8 out of 10 crashes are caused by distracted driving. Unfortunately, there is a large disconnect between people's beliefs about distracted driving and their actual behavior behind the wheel. For example, almost everyone polled agreed that distracted driving was dangerous, and that it should be avoided.
But only 19% of that same group was convinced that drinking coffee, adjusting an iPod, and fiddling with the radio are distracting behaviors (in contrast to the 88% who agreed that texting while driving is dangerous and distracting). Amazingly enough, the survey also revealed that even people who know victims of distracted driving accidents still engage in distracted driving behaviors themselves.
Calum MacDonald of The Herald has addressed the puzzling difference in public sentiment toward distracted driving versus drunk driving. He writes: "Despite the fact that it deadens a driver's reactions more than alcohol, and in its consequences is as destructive and devastating as drunk driving, attitudes to driving while using a hand-held mobile phone and driving under the influence could not be more different." Of course, all responsible drivers abhor drunk driving, but many of those same drivers wouldn't hesitate to take a call or send a text while behind the wheel. Make no mistake: both behaviors can be equally lethal.
Perhaps more awareness and education is needed: certainly, many of us need to take a good look at our actions behind the wheel. Cutting down on our own distractions can reduce traffic accidents, making the roads safer for everyone in Webb City and throughout Missouri.
For more info about distracted driving, visit http://www.distraction.gov/. If you've been injured in an accident caused by distracted driving, call 1-888-777-AUTO to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.