A recent local story has underscored the danger, as well as the heartbreak, of driving while distracted. Not only is this a critical safety issue: it is increasingly becoming the cause of vehicular manslaughter.
The U.S. Department of Transportation website, Distraction.gov, defines Distracted Driving this way:
There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual — taking your eyes off the road
- Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.
While all distractions can endanger drivers’ safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction. (Emphasis mine.)
Other distracting activities include:
- Using a cell phone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a PDA or navigation system
- Watching a video
- Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player.
Even more alarming are the following statistics on Distracted Driving, also from Distraction.gov:
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
- The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
- The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
- The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20-to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
- Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
Bottom line: it’s Driver’s Ed 101. Keep both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. It will keep you safe, and out of jail.