Distracted Driving Risks & You


Do you text while driving? Talk on a cell phone while your car is in motion, one hand on the steering wheel and half your mind divided between driving and giving your kids instruction about doing their chores before you get home?

Most people have heard by now of the Massachusetts teen driver, Aaron Deveau, who was convicted of vehicular homicide for an accident he caused while texting, which resulted in the death of a 54-year-old father. The teen was only 17 years old and had his license for only 6 months. His sentence is 1 year behind bars, 7 years of probation, 40 hours of community service and a cancelled driver’s license which cannot be reinstated for 15 years.

As my husband, David, and I were out on errands recently we saw yet another driver who was texting while driving on a back road. We wondered why anyone really needs to text while driving a car. And why at least 3 out of 5 drivers we pass have a cell phone held to their ear.

I checked the web for distracted-driver auto accidents statistics; I want to share some with you that I found at the website of a national law firm that represents people injured in auto accidents*. Note the following:

  • There were 3,092 deaths in distraction-related accidents in 2010, but the number is likely much higher [now].
  • Most drivers said they are willing to answer a call or text while driving, but most of these same drivers said they would feel unsafe as a passenger in a car where the driver was sending or receiving text messages.

It seems to be human nature to assume that others can’t do safely what you are sure you can do safely. People who talk or text on cell phones while driving should reconsider the assumption that they can multi-task while driving.

  • . . . a half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year.

These numbers are steadily rising as more and more teens are driving and senior adults are living longer and therefore driving into later age when their response mechanism is slower than it used to be. Add to this the increased number of people who use cell phones and other technological devices for more and more purposes – not just talking or texting, but accessing internet and GPS systems, selecting music to listen to, even playing games on cell phones while driving, often at highway speeds.

Texting While Driving

  • Research reveals that 46% of drivers under 18 admit to texting while driving. Driver distraction is a factor in 25- to 50% of all car accidents, with 61% of teen drivers admitting to risky driving habits.
  • While teenagers are texting, they spend about 10 percent of the time outside the driving lane they’re supposed to be in.
  • Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
  • Answering a text takes away attention for about five seconds. That is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

This was the case of the Massachusetts teen driver who was convicted of vehicular homicide, just a five-second distraction and a man is dead.

Fatal Crashes

  • More people are driving while distracted, when they are involved in fatal crashes. The percentage of fatalities associated with distracted drivers increased from 10% in 2005 to 16% in 2009.
  • In 2009, 867 fatal crashes were reported to have involved cell phones as a means for driver distraction (18% of all fatal distracted-driving crashes).
  • The under-20 age group had the highest percentage of distracted drivers; 16% of drivers under 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted while driving.
  • The 30 to 39-year-old age group had the highest percentage of cell phone use in fatal crashes.

It’s one thing to read auto accident statistics, it’s another to actually consider that you could be one of those statistics. As I said earlier, we always think “It won’t happen to me.” But why take a chance that either you or someone else in your car or another vehicle may be a victim of a distracted driver auto accident?

Here are my suggestions for avoiding distracted driving:

  1. Have a hands-off policy for cell phone or other technical device when you are driving.
  2. Let your voice-mail take the call.
  3. Wait to check your voice mail and text messages until you are in a safe non-moving space – like a rest area, a parking lot, or your driveway.
  4. Realize that even head-set or speaker phone conversations are still distractions in a moving vehicle.
  5. If you need to make an emergency call, pull over to the side of the road or turn off at an exit and safely make a call.
  6. Turn the ringer off on your cell phone when in the car.
  7. When ordering drinks at drive-thrus, make sure tops of cups are securely on before pulling out into traffic.
  8. Secure your children and your pets with seat belts before starting the car engine. Even unsecured canine passengers can be a distraction in heavy traffic. As demonstrated on ABC news, an unsecured pet can become a projectile in a sudden stop, or a front or rear crash.

I remember what it was like not to have a cell phone. I didn’t miss-out on anything important. If I got lost, I stopped and asked for directions. And even better, I was not distracted in my driving. Try turning off your cell phone when on the road. You may find you’ll have a more peaceful drive time than you have in a long while.

How do you handle the distractions of cell phones and other devices while driving?

©2012, Marcy Alves

*Edgar Snyder & Associates

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About Marcy

I love my Father-God. Together we are walking through a season of my life where I am standing with him against cancer. He is my strength and trust. As one of his daughters, my passion is to share his love with others in practical, everyday illustrations and insights.

Posted on June 10, 2012, in In the News, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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