April is Distracted Driving Month, and we encourage everyone to take some time to re-evaluate your driving habits to see whether you can eliminate unnecessary distractions from your daily commute. Every day, nearly 9 people are killed and more than 1,160 people are injured in crashes reportedly involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, the NHTSA claims that driver inattention is the leading contributing factor in most crashes or near-miss accidents in the United States.
Distracted Driving Causes Crashes
Of all crashes, over 90 percent involve driver inattention within a three-second window of the incident. Whether you’re checking a map or GPS, changing the radio station, or answering a phone call, anything that takes your attention off the road is a potentially deadly distraction.
How Texting is Unique
The latest danger to hit the roadways is texting while driving. Texting requires a motorist’s full attention, which obviously inhibits attention to the road. Cell phone use in general is especially distracting; drivers typically cannot divide their attention between the road and their conversation or text. Even if you use a hands-free device, you risk being distracted and inattentive. This concern is by no means limited to everyday drivers; inattention due to texting has caused many occupational drivers to be involved in deadly roadway crashes.
It’s Against the Law
Many states have laws outlawing the use of cell phones and texting while driving. To avoid a ticket and a potentially dangerous accident, do not use your cell phone in any capacity while driving. If you must make a phone call or text, pull off the road safely and then do so. No message is more important than saving someone’s life.
To view distracted driving laws by state, visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website. This page has an easy-to read chart that outlines the rules by state. In Iowa, text messaging is banned for all drivers, and cell phone use is prohibited for anyone with a restricted or intermediate license.
Here are some easy tips for minimizing distractions while driving:
Avoid changing the radio station while the car is in motion. Set the station when you leave, and don’t adjust it until you have time to stop and pull over – or ask a passenger to take care of it for you.
If you are taking an unfamiliar route, be sure to research it ahead of time. Don’t try to study the map or program your GPS while driving; wait until you have time to stop and pull over.
Turn off your cell phone or put it somewhere inaccessible while driving. That will minimize the temptation to use it.
Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t try to eat, drink, smoke, fix your hair or makeup, or read while driving.
Don’t try to discuss anything controversial or emotional with passengers in the car. A heated discussion with passengers can be just as distracting as a cell phone conversation.
In addition to avoiding distractions, give driving your full attention by driving defensively to minimize your risk of an auto accident. Driving defensively means being aware of the movement of drivers around you and making adjustments to your driving accordingly.