Preventing Distracted Driving in Car Accidents

Distracted driving accidents occur when a driver is doing anything that takes attention away from driving. Some examples include sending a text message, changing the radio station, looking at someone else in the vehicle, using a navigation system, or eating while driving.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day approximately eight people in the United States are killed in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

Distracted Driving Accidents

There are four different types of distraction that can take focus away from the road. These include visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive distractions. The National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data found that 2,841 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2018. 

Visual Distractions

Looking at anything other than the road is a visual distraction. Visual distractions can exist inside the vehicle, such as looking at a passenger in the vehicle or viewing something on a screen. Outside visual distractions could be anything that catches the driver’s eye outside the vehicle. Anything from a pretty sunset to a UFO could be a visual driving distraction. 

Tips for reducing visual distractions

There are two ways to focus visually. Central vision involves looking straight ahead. This allows you to see potential dangers immediately in front of you and gives you a chance to react to them. Peripheral vision is your side vision. Glancing side to side or being cognizant of the things beside you is important to ensure full visual awareness and is an important concept for preventing distracted driving accidents.  

  • Focus on the road ahead with your central vision, following your intended path of travel. Try to keep your gaze two miles ahead when on the open road. That is not actually possible, but it will help you to use both your central and peripheral vision. 
  • Continually scan the roadway. Concentrate on select details of the traffic situation that may concern you, but keep your eyes moving. Check your side mirrors, rear-view mirror, and instrument panel intermittently as well. 
  • Focus on the big picture. Try to get a sense of everything going on around your vehicle, and make sure to glance at your mirrors frequently.
  • Do not look down away from the road. Glancing at something inside your vehicle is not inherently dangerous, but staring for more than a few seconds can be a problem. Try to make sure you have everything you need before starting your car to avoid these types of distractions. 

How far you gaze into the distance when driving is going to depend on where you are driving and the amount of traffic. A big, crowded city provides different visual distractions than a long country road or winding through mountains. 

Manual Distractions

Anytime the driver is manipulating something other than the steering wheel, there is a manual driving distraction. This could be sending a text or an email, changing the song on your playlist, eating lunch, applying make-up, and anything else that removes a hand from the wheel. 

Texting and driving prevention

The most common type of manual distracted driving accidents come from texting and driving. According to a 2019 report by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), which specializes in telematics and driving behavioral analytics, U.S. drivers were distracted by their phones in 41% of all daytime drives. The actual impact of texting and driving is difficult to quantify, but it is extremely relevant when discussing manual driving distractions. Here are some tips for texting and driving prevention:

  • Place your phone intentionally out of reach before driving;
  • Pull over if you need to send or respond to a text message;
  • Speak up about texting concerns when you are a passenger;
  • Make a pledge/resolution to family and friends to not text while driving; and
  • Discuss the dangers of texting and driving with new drivers under your supervision.

Preventing texting and driving is a big step in the overall goal of reducing distracted driving accidents.  

Auditory Distractions

The act of changing the radio is a manual distraction, but the actual sound can constitute an auditory driving distraction. Loud music is a common auditory distraction. Screaming children or other audibly distracting passengers can also cause problems. 

Car horns are meant to help a driver gain the attention of another driver or someone within earshot. Honking can be a warning that an accident is about to occur. If you cannot hear the horn, you may put yourself into a situation that could have been avoided. 

Sirens from ambulances, fire engines, and police vehicles exist to keep you and others safe. If you do not hear these sirens, you could be preventing emergency response professionals from getting where they need to go to do their jobs. No one wants to be that person. 

Cognitive Distractions

Thinking about or focusing mental attention on something other than driving may not seem harmful, but it could be. Even with your hands on the wheel and cruise control on, your reaction time will be reduced when your mind starts to wander. Lack of sleep can also be a cognitive driving distraction, and so can anger/road rage. Some of the dangers of cognitive driving distractions include:

  • Having slower reaction times;
  • Being blind to surroundings; and
  • Having reduced activity in parts of the brain that are usually active while driving. 

Multitasking is not a good use of brainpower. Parts of the brain that are dedicated to processing visual information, spatial information, and overseeing navigation show less activity when a driver is thinking about something else such as a conversation, listening to the news or audiobooks, or planning out the day’s activities. 

Handling Distracted Driving Accidents

Understanding the potential risks and taking steps to prevent distracted driving does not account for the actions of other drivers. If you are involved in a distracted driver accident, it is important to seek legal help from an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure that you are being adequately compensated for your injuries.

Written by George K.

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