When driving is a regular part of your day to day life, it’s easy to forget you’re operating dangerous machinery each time you get behind the wheel. The average U.S. car weighs about two tons and may travel at legal speeds of up to 80 mph on some interstates. But while most drivers understand the serious implications of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, the same cannot be said when it comes to driving distracted.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving includes any activity that takes your attention away from driving. In 2017 alone, more than 3,000 people died in accidents involving a distracted driver, accounting for 9% of the fatal crashes on the road. While cellphone use made up a whopping 14% of those distracted-driver fatalities, talking to passengers, fiddling with the GPS or radio and eating or drinking also take a driver’s focus off the road.
The dangers of driving distracted
Taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds may seem like a harmless act, but the reality is you cannot drive safely unless driving has your full attention. Removing your eyes off the road for even five seconds when traveling 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
While the number of drunk driving-related fatalities in 2017 far exceeded the number of distracted driving-related deaths, distracted drivers are on the road far more often. While most drunk driving accidents occur on the weekends between midnight and 3 a.m., distracted drivers are on the road at virtually all hours of the day, including when you are likely to be out on the road yourself.
According to ZenDrive, a company that studies driving behaviors, 40% of drivers use their phones at least once at any given time of day. That average percentage rises to 72% of drivers using their phone between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. – or standard commuting times.
Preventing driving distracted
While you can’t prevent others from driving distracted, there are easy steps you can take to avoid becoming distracted yourself:
- Don’t use your phone: Most smartphones today offer features or free apps for driving that silence your notifications and calls.
- Setup technology before you drive: If you need to use your GPS or listen to music, get everything set up before driving.
- Use hands-free technology: Placing your phone on a mount or in your cup holder can help ensure you’re not tempted to look at your phone.
Driving distracted puts everyone on the road at risk and is no safer than driving drunk. Keep your focus on the road to ensure that you always get home safely.