Highway safety experts blame inattentive – or distracted – driving for 80 percent of all car accidents. So with just a few seconds of additional awareness of the road around us, we could potentially eliminate around 80 percent of crashes.
How can just a few seconds make a difference? Consider the distance traveled by a vehicle running down the highway at 60 mph, or one mile a minute. That’s one sixtieth of a mile per second, or about 88 feet. So much can happen in 88 feet. So much more can happen when a driver’s attention is somewhere other than the highway. A car with a distracted driver who fails to see stopped traffic ahead would travel nearly six car lengths in that one second.
Let’s look at some facts about distracted driving and do the math. How many seconds are your eyes (and mind) off the road when you drive? And what can happen in one second’s time?
IT’S NOT JUST OUR PHONES …
We know all about phones and texting. But anything diverting our attention from the road is a distraction. All of these little distractions add up to create a lot of potential risk.
How many distractions do you have in the course of a single trip?
- adjusting radios or other dashboard devices
- listening to, looking at or adjusting GPS navigation systems
- reading signs and looking at “TV-style” billboards
- handling kids in the back seat
- catching a falling beverage cup
- eating/snacking while driving
- simply daydreaming or just listening to the radio
HOW DANGEROUS IS IT REALLY?
In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to distraction.gov. Figures show that young drivers are especially prone to engaging in risky, distracted behavior according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But distraction is not just a problem for youthful drivers. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and published in the Federal Register shows the likelihood of a crash caused by various tasks that take the driver’s eyes off the forward roadway. The odds ratio is the increased likelihood of being involved in a crash when compared to undistracted driving:
While statistics may show that sending or receiving a text message is one of the riskiest distractions since it takes the driver’s eyes off the road for about 5 seconds on average, imagine adding that to all these other distractions we deal with! At 45 mph you are covering the length a football field every 4.6 seconds. So much can happen around you in that short time span.
So the studies exist – and the stats are there – supporting the argument that distracted driving is extremely risky to yourself and others on the road. Consider ways to reduce distractions when you drive to improve safety for yourself, your passengers, other drivers and pedestrians.