Distracted driving is something that most drivers are guilty of committing on a regular basis. You might not realize it, but your attention is constantly being pulled in several different directions when you're behind the wheel. The key is to recognize what distracts you the most, and to make an effort to limit distractions whenever possible.
If you're reading this and thinking "but I'm always safe when I'm driving" you might want to think again. Here are just some of the most common ways that distracted driving causes auto accidents:
- Mealtime: Whether you're running late in the morning or you're starving when you get out, the tempting smell of a quick snack can be dangerous when you're driving.
- Makeup: Not what you should be using your rearview mirror for!
- Calling or texting: When you send or receive a text, it takes your eyes off the road for almost five seconds. If you're driving 55mph, according to VTTI, you'll travel the entire length of a football field in that time.
- Another accident: You just want to see what's going on!
- Billboards: They're designed to grab your attention on the road. It's no surprise that they also cause a lot of accidents.
- Fiddling with the radio or music player: This can be just as dangerous as texting. If you need to flip stations, try pre-setting your favorites.
- Other passengers talking: Whether it's your kids arguing in the backseat or your friends asking you to turn up the music, it's easy to get distracted by the other passengers in your car.
- Reaching for something in your purse, wallet or the back seat: Even if you keep your eyes on the road while you blindly sift through a bag next to you, you're still mentally distracted from what's happening outside of your vehicle.
- Your emotions: Driving while you're upset is actually a huge distraction, believe it or not.The consequences of distracted driving are much more serious than most people realize. In 2013, there were 3,154 car accident fatalities in the U.S. because of distracted driving or careless driving. The car accident injury statistics are even higher; around 424,000 people sustained injuries from these crashes, according to Distraction.gov. This breaks down to an average of nine fatalities and 1,153 injuries per day across the country, according to data from the U.S. CDC.
Distracted driving is more common with younger drivers, making up 27% of all fatal accidents according to the NHTSA, but it's by no means limited to young adults. Data from UMTRI shows that one in four teens admit to texting behind the wheel, but one in ten parents also admit to having text message conversations while driving. Though the state of Georgia has placed a ban on all cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18, it's important for drivers of all ages to limit when and how they use their phones in the car.
If you have any experience with a distracted driving accident (or if you simply want to join the conversation and help promote safety on the roads) be sure to check out our Distracted Driving PSA Contest. This contest is open to all high school and college students, and the main requirement is to produce a 2-8 minute YouTube video which discusses the issue of distracted driving. Submissions are due on March 24, 2017 (just in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April). By putting distracted driving habits behind us, we can make the streets of Atlanta safer for everyone.