The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of auto accidents every year. Distracted driving, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” This vague definition includes everything from using a cell phone to text, call, or put on music to eating, drinking, smoking, talking, and a hundred other things you could potentially do while driving. Experts have attempted to specify a few types of distracted driving. These include manual distractions, visual distractions, and cognitive distractions.

The Three Types of Distraction

Manual distractions include any activity that takes your hands away from the steering wheel while you’re driving. Reaching for a soda, changing the radio station, or eating food all qualify as manual distraction. Visual distractions, on the other hand, include any activity that takes your eyes off the road. If you spill something, look at the radio, or turn your head to converse with a passenger, you’re visually distracted. The final type of distraction is called cognitive distraction. This occurs when your mind wanders away from the task of driving. If you’re thinking about something deeply or having an involved conversation, you’re cognitively distracted. Each type of distraction is common for drivers. When lawmakers create distracted driving laws, they’re aiming to curtail the most dangerous manifestations.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

One of the most dangerous manifestations of distracted driving is using a cell phone while driving. When you text and drive, you’re engaging in all three types of distraction at once. According to researcher David Strayer of the University of Utah, talking on a cell phone while driving quadruples the risk of an accident. This level of risk is similar to driving drunk. When you text while driving, that risk doubles again, to eight times normal. In 2009, a study found that texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without a distraction. Since then, cell phones and smart phones have only gotten more ubiquitous. Thousands are killed and hundreds of thousands are injured by distracted driving each year. A report by the NHTSA showed that that represents 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all crashes that caused injuries. This claim was challenged by the National Safety Council, which claimed that at least 26 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by texting and cell phone use alone.

Why Laws are Necessary

Unfortunately, drivers aren’t taking the risks of distracted driving seriously enough. For many people, near-constant cell phone use has become a norm. According to a survey conducted by AAA, a significant majority (90 percent) of people claimed to recognize the danger from cell phone distractions while driving. Of those people, 35 percent admitted to reading or sending a text message or email while driving. Similarly, 88 percent of those surveyed believed talking on the phone was a threat to safety even though two-thirds of them admitted to doing it. Because people acknowledge the risks while still engaging in risky behaviors, lawmakers have determined it to be in the public’s best interest to institute new rules regarding distracted driving.

The rules and regulations which prohibit and punish distracted driving are different throughout the country. In many places, they’ve only been recently introduced. As time goes on, hopefully a greater understanding of the dangers of distracted driving will contribute to safer roads for everyone.

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If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, whether the at-fault person was engaged in distracted driving or not, you should contact one of the experienced auto accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield. With over 70 years of collective legal and trial experience, we can help answer any questions you may have on the phone or in person during a free consultation. 

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