America is a nation that relies on cars, but driving does not come without a cost. Nearly 85 percent of Americans have drivers’ licenses. At least 83 percent of drivers in the nation say that they are frequently on the road. As with any repetitive task, driving is something that many people become so comfortable with that they forget to prioritize safety as much as they should be.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving accounted for 3,142 deaths in 2019. The agency also estimates that distracted driving injured at least 400,000 people that year. An estimated 26,000 people lost their lives in distracted driving accidents in the U.S. from 2012 to 2019. While the numbers are hard to track, these facts might make distracted driving the most common cause of car accidents in the United States.
This makes distracted driving one of the most dangerous and completely preventable hazards Americans face each day on the road.
What Causes Distracted Driving
Distracted driving happens anytime a person’s complete attention is completely focused on driving safely. Today, it’s often associated with cell phone use. Whether it is texting while driving, talking on the phone, or using a looking up something online, cell phone use is clearly a primary force behind distracted driving accidents.
However, there are many other distractions inside a vehicle that can lead to an accident as well, including:
- GPS use
- Audio systems
- Eating or drinking
- Other passengers
Anything that takes a driver's attention from the road is a distraction, and that can increase the likelihood of a collision.
Three Main Types of Distractions
When it comes to driving a car, truck, or other motor vehicle, you need to have your full attention on the task at hand. Distractions take some or all of your attention from driving, and this is what causes serious collisions. A driver who is distracted might not see a change in traffic or an object or animal in the road. A distracted driver may take longer to respond to a traffic light or curve in the road. A distracted driver may drive off the road completely if they take their attention off driving for even a few seconds.
A distraction will affect at least one of the following:
- Visual Attention: This refers to a driver's eyes on the road. When you're behind the wheel, you need to be watching the road, checking your mirrors, and paying attention at all times to watch for changes in traffic, stopped vehicles, traffic signals, and more. If your visual attention is affected even for a second or two, this can be enough to cause a serious collision.
- Mental Attention: To put it simply, you should be thinking about driving while you're driving. Your mental attention should be on the task at hand. If you're thinking about something else, you are more likely to miss a turn, drive right by your exit, or make a critical error in judgment that ends up causing a crash.
- Manual Attention: This refers to keeping your hands on the steering wheel. You need both hands to be in complete control. Even if you can steer effectively with just one hand, think about what might happen if you do not have your other hand free to signal or honk your horn in an emergency. Keep your hands at the ready so you can drive safely and respond to any situation.
Some distractions affect all three forms of attention. These are the most dangerous, such as texting while driving, which will take visual attention off the road, mental attention from driving, and one or both hands from the wheel. Preventing these distractions is the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
How Distracted Driving Can Be Prevented
The most unfortunate thing about distracted driving accidents is that they are entirely avoidable. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind that will help you avoid causing an accident due to distractions:
- Turn off your cell phone and stow it away – As soon as you get in the car, either turn your phone off or put it on silent mode. Then place it in the glove department or another area of the car that is out of reach. If your phone is off and out of reach, it is much easier to resist the temptation to use it while you are behind the wheel.
- If you must use your phone, pull over – Of course, there will be times when you absolutely need to make a phone call, respond to an email, or look up an address on your smartphone. When that happens, pull over to a safe location to use your phone.
- Start your GPS guidance before you drive – If you use a GPS system to map your route, enter your destination before you start driving.
- Do not eat or drink while driving – It can be tempting to snack in the car, but multitasking slows down your reaction time. Save snacks for when you get to your destination or pull over before you eat.
- Don’t allow your pets to roam free in the car – Many people like to let their pets sit in their lap or roam the cabin freely, but pets can be a major source of distractions while driving. Always make sure your pet is caged and secure while the vehicle is moving.
- Mind your kids – Small children in the backseat can often provide distractions to the driver. If a situation arises with your children that requires your attention, pull over and address it before getting back on the road.
- Stay focused – Even if you avoid obvious distractions, people still tend to let their minds wander or daydream. Make sure that you are always focused on the task at hand and aware of your surroundings. Remember, even if you are not distracted, there is no guarantee that other drivers are not. By always staying alert, you will be in a better position to avoid a potential accident.
- Don't let others drive distracted – You can prevent distracted driving even if you are not behind the wheel. As a passenger, don't distract the driver. If you notice that a driver is distracted, ask that they put their attention back on the road. Whether this is a family member, a friend, or a rideshare driver, you'll be doing the right thing.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured by a Distracted Driver
If you have been in a car accident that was caused by a distracted driver, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Arnold & Itkin provide legal representation to victims of distracted driving across the country. Contact us today at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation. We’ve helped clients recover billions of dollars by always demanding the accountability they deserve, no matter what. We never back down, we always focus on what a client needs, and we're ready to listen to what happened to you so we can start fighting for your recovery.