Distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving and speeding as the top cause of accidents across the country, according to transportation experts. Distracted drivers cause more than 3,000 deaths and 300,000 accidents annually. The impact to drivers and their driving records is also taking a “big hit.”
In Michigan, for example, a distracted driving ticket earns a driver four points and will cause his insurance to rise by 56 percent. In Indiana, fines are as much as $250 per ticket along with higher insurance rates.
Distracted Drivers Held Accountable
Law enforcement officials are emphasizing new laws mean distracted drivers are held accountable. It’s no longer considered “just an unfortunate accident” if a driver kills another motorist while searching for a better radio station. Distracted driving related accidents that result in death lead to hefty consequences including jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and restitution, and attorney fees.
Cell phones are the weapon of choice among distracted drivers. Texting and driving is the largest cause of distracted driving accidents and every state except Montana has laws banning texting and driving. Despite this, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that at any given time more than 850,000 drivers are texting while driving. GPS navigation is also guilty of causing distractions, for obvious reasons.
Distracted Driving Avoidable
Most importantly, distracted driving is completely avoidable—by not allowing distractions in the vehicle.
Educating drivers about distracted driving begins by identifying the four forms: visual, auditory, manual and cognitive. A visual distraction causes a driver to take his eyes off the road, such as, turning the radio station or reading a billboard. Auditory is a distraction caused by loud sounds, such as, loud music or sounds from outside the vehicle. Manual distractions result in the driver taking one or both of his hands off the steering wheel—reaching for a cell phone. Cognitive distractions result in the driver losing focus of his driving. Examples of this include arguing with a passenger or daydreaming.
Five Tips for Avoiding Distracted Driving
Secondly, knowing how to avoid distraction is paramount. The NHTSA explains that at 55 miles per hour, sending a short text is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes close. Nobody would purposely close their eyes for five seconds or more while driving 55 MPH.
To avoid distracted driving follow these five tips:
- Stow your phone. Turn off your phone or put in “do not disturb” mode.
- Do not multi-task while driving. Eating and other tasks should be done while stopped.
- Plan your drive and drive your plan. Program your navigation system prior to putting the vehicle in drive and don’t change the route unless stopped.
- Know your vehicle. Familiarize yourself with the vehicle you are driving prior to starting so you’re not searching for specific controls while driving.
- Avoid reaching. Resist the urge to reach for things that fall to the floor.
Other things you can do to assist in the war against distracted driving include not texting or calling someone you know is driving and educate family, friends and co-workers on the pitfalls of distracted driving.