It’s the Number One Self-Inflicted Distraction on the Road
The statistics are sobering, yet we keep doing it.
People all over this country get behind the wheel and, at some point in the journey, pull out their cell phone to send or read a text message.
That’s dangerous, and safety officials hoping to make us more conscious of the danger have designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The goal is to decrease the number of drivers who allow themselves to be distracted in any way, including via cell phone.
Hundreds of Thousands Driving While Distracted
Many people think they’re good at multitasking. Every day, hundreds of thousands try it while behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given time more than 480,000 people are driving while using a cell phone, one of the most common forms of distracted driving.
But the behavior is risky. NHTSA reports that in 2016, 3,450 people died in car accidents in which distracted driving was a factor. Hundreds of thousands were injured. Young people, who text much more often on average than other population groups, are at the greatest risk.
The problem is fairly new. The first text message or SMS (short message service) was sent some 25 years ago, and over the years the popularity of text messaging has only grown. In 1995, the average American sent 0.4 texts per month; by 2000, the number had jumped to 35 per month. By 2017, around 26 billion text messages were being sent daily in the United States alone.
Young people send the most messages, with those 18 to 24 years old sending and receiving an average of about 128 messages a day. So it’s no surprise that members of this group are the most likely to be involved in a deadly auto accident while distracted. Despite frequent warnings about the dangers of driving while texting, though, nearly 89 percent of drivers 19 to 24 years old admit to speeding, running red lights, and/or texting while behind a wheel within the past 30 days.
Getting the Message About Distracted Driving
The Governors Highway Safety Association notes that every state, including Colorado, now has laws of some kind to prevent distracted driving. State safety officials report that distracted driving causes an average of 40 Colorado auto accidents a day.
Although officials tend to focus on the effects of using cell phones while driving, cell use is of course not the only kind of distraction that increases the chances of injury or death from an accident. There’s also eating and drinking, chatting with passengers, grooming, reading (including reading a map), using a navigation system, watching a video, and adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.
Authorities hope that this April, at least, the message about the hazards of distracted driving will be heard loud and clear, thereby reducing the number accidents and deaths caused by drivers who let themselves be distracted while on the road.
Tips That May Prevent Auto Accidents
The American Automobile Association offers some good advice on how to drive distraction-free, from securing loose possessions so they don’t roll around in your car to avoiding messy snacks to parking on the side of the road for a few minutes if and when you really must handle a non-driving chore.
The top tip: aspire to full focus on the task at hand. “If you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.