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Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distracted Driving Awareness Month: How Has Distracted Driving Evolved?

Distracted Driving Awareness Month: How Has Distracted Driving Evolved?

There’s no denying the severity of how dangerous distracted driving is. Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous car accidents are caused by drivers dividing their attention while behind the wheel – oftentimes due to talking on the phone, texting, or checking directions on a mobile device.

Technology has completely revolutionized how we go about doing everything from commuting to communicating.  While it allows us to stay in touch with people around the world and has provided incredible safety solutions in the car industry and just about every other industry, technology can serve as a major distraction, especially if used while driving.

According to the National Safety Council, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes EVERY DAY.

Although texting and driving is probably the most well-known and prevalent distractions, it is unfortunately only one of the many distractions that can take our eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.

Some of the most common distractions behind the wheel are:

  • Texting and driving
  • Eating or drinking
  • Checking emails
  • Using GPS apps for directions
  • Adjusting the vehicle’s climate
  • Fiddling with the sound knobs
  • Using mobile streaming apps
  • Talking on the phone (hands-free or not)
  • Passengers
  • Applying makeup in the mirror

So how can we combat these distractions? We encourage drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to be aware of the dangers of distracted driving across the United States. Check out The Barnes Firm Instagram for safety tips about distracted driving and things not to do behind the wheel.

In fact, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which recognizes the dangers of distracted driving and helps to bring awareness to Americans to help eliminate preventable accidents that happen from this cause each year.

Last year over 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Safety Council.  Technology such as cell phones, radios, and voice command features are often contributors to these accidents involving distracted drivers.  Taking your attention away from the road for even a second can result in serious consequences.

Getting to the root of the problem. Is technology the true issue? While technology is definitely a leading distraction for drivers today, driving distractions have indeed been around for decades.  Let’s take a look at how distracted driving has evolved over the past few decades.

How Has Distracted Driving Evolved Over Time?

Distracted Driving in the 1960s

You don’t need a robust mobile app to divert attention behind the wheel. The notion of distracted driving roots as far back as the invention of the automobile.

Between external distractions such as billboards to internal distractions like parenting or grabbing a French fry from the front seat, distractions are nothing new!

A study in 1963 conducted by John Senders, looked at how much time a driver needed to spend looking at the road to drive safely by actually blindfolding himself while driving down the interstate.  His research showed that many distractions such as passing landmarks, cityscapes, checking the rearview mirror, and talking to passengers led drivers to stare at the road in front of them without actually seeing it.  He referred to this as “road hypnotization”, similar to daydreaming.  Little did Senders know that future technological advances were only going to add to driving distractions.

1980s and 1990s

Fast forward to 1983, the year cellular telephones were introduced to Americans.  At this point, people had the ability to be in touch 24/7 from anywhere, at any time.  Working Americans could now take business calls while commuting to and from the office.  Eventually, cell phones would become the ultimate driving distraction.

By 1997 over 50 million Americans were cell phone users.  That same year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a study to learn about the effects of mobile phones and driving.  Nine out of every ten cell phone owners involved in the study reported using their mobile device while behind the wheel.  The study also highlighted insights from law enforcement who noticed an increase in odd driving behavior in relation to cell phone usage.

Early 2000s and Today

In 2001 New York became the first state to pass a law banning hand-held mobile device use while driving.  This was one of the first steps in a growing national concern with many Americans.  Drivers were causing more accidents by being distracted by their cell phones and not focusing on the road but on conversations over the phone.

In April 2018, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System at the U.S. Department of Transportation released “lost in thought”, or “daydreaming” as the top driving distraction that led to fatal crashes.  Cell phone use was a distraction among 14% of the drivers involved in the report.  The study analyzed over 172,000 fatalities from car crashes from 2012-2016 and found that one in every ten crashes were caused by at least one driver being distracted.

Common Driving Distractions

1. Texting

Texting and driving is reckless behavior.  In fact, it increases your risk of being involved in a car accident 23 times.  Currently, 47 states have passed laws making texting and driving illegal.  Ignoring these laws could cost you a substantial amount in fines or lead to more serious consequences.

Paying attention to the road and putting your phone away can save lives.  No text message or phone call is more important than your life or the life of another person.

Teen drivers are some of the most common drivers guilty of texting and driving. More than 58% of car accidents that involve teenagers are the result of distracted driving.

AAA found an average of 1,022 people died each year in crashes involving teen drivers, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The summer months (ranging from Memorial Day to Labor Day) are notoriously referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer due to teens being out of school and driving around more frequently.

2. Roadside

Looking around and taking your eyes off the road for even a second can lead to serious consequences.  Taking a moment to read billboards, people watching, admiring nearby cars, the opportunities to divert attention are endless. Anything that causes you to take your focus off the road may lead to an accident.

3. Passengers & Children

Your eyes may be focused on the road, but you’re not fully paying attention when you’re having side conversations with passengers in your vehicle.  Although close in proximity, parenting from the front seat to the back seat while going 55 MPH is very dangerous – especially when you can’t control OTHER distracted drivers. You may have a car full of screaming children which cause you to pay more attention to them rather than focusing on driving and safely reaching your destination.

Keeping conversations to a minimum, regulating children’s car behavior, and being mindful of noise levels can help you avoid potential dangers.

4. Multitasking

Do you find yourself constantly running late to work or in a rush to every appointment, meeting, or social gathering?  Many people don’t make enough time for themselves before heading out the door and end up multitasking in the car on their way to their destination.  Putting on makeup, eating, catching up on emails, and getting organized in the car are obviously dangerous, but people continue to do them quite often.

Saving a few minutes by multitasking in the car can put your life and others’ lives at risk.  Improve your safety and those around you by taking a couple of extra minutes to prepare yourself before getting in the car.

Accidents Can Be Avoided

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration leads the national effort to save lives by preventing distracted driving.  Distracted Driving Awareness Month focuses on bringing attention to the causes and severity of distracted driving in an effort to prevent it from occurring.

Next time you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, remember to put your phone down, minimize all potential distractions, buckle up, and keep your eyes on the road.  Paying attention to the road and avoiding potential distractions can help save lives.

If you have been in a car accident involving a distracted driver, The Barnes Firm auto accident injury lawyers can assist you in taking legal action.

Contact us for a FREE consultation. An experienced attorney can help you get compensation for things like:

  • Medical bills
  • lost wages
  • pain and suffering
  • transportation costs
  • rehabilitation
  • and more

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