April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month... Hang up and Drive!

Today our lives are more demanding than ever before, and smart-phones have made us available 24/7. Our culture’s compulsion for increased productivity has forced Americans to squeeze more time out of a 24 hour day.

On the surface, we think driving is easya “mindless activity.” So, we deceive ourselves into thinking we can accomplish other tasks while we’re driving, like talking on the phone, texting, or even sending emails. The fact is, this “multi-tasking” is creating an epidemic in our country—an epidemic of death from distracted driving.

Research statistics prove that distracted driving is a real problem. The “cold hard facts” are listed below:

  • Distracted driving contributed to 421,000 motor vehicle related injuries from distracted driving in 2012. (http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/)
  • Driver distractions are a factor in 80% of vehicle crashes. (www.NHTSA.gov)
  • Using a cell phone while driving quadruples your risk of being involved in an accident. (www.distraction.gov, NHTSA)
  • Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. (www.distraction.gov, NHTSA)
  • Using a cell phone while driving, whether its hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a Blood Alcohol Concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah, NHTSA, www.distraction.gov)

Driving Takes A Lot of Brain Power

Did you know that “Multi-tasking” is a myth? Research has proven that it is impossible for the brain to perform more than one task at a time. The brain switches quickly from one task to another, which leads people to believe they are multi-tasking. But the fact is, reaction times are slower when the brain is attempting to perform more than one function at a time. As a result, the brain cannot give 100% of its focus to either of the tasks at hand. Distractions cause information overload on our brains, resulting in mental errors, slower reaction times, inattention blindness, and poor judgment calls.

Recent studies from the University of Utah showed how distracted driving impacts overall traffic flow and creates dangerous vehicle clusters resulting in serious accidents. The study revealed the following driving behaviors directly related to distracted driving:

  • Distracted drivers are 20% less likely to change lanes, creating traffic congestion.
  • People talking on cell phones tend to look straight ahead, paying less attention to what’s going on in their peripheral vision, creating dangerous lane changing, or swerving into other lanes.
  • Distracted drivers have, on average, a 30% slower reaction time when texting, and 9% slower reaction time when talking on the phone.

How Can Americans Stop the Epidemic?

What can be done to stop the epidemic of distracted driving? For starters, establish a company policy and enforce your company rules. The National Safety Council offers Distracted Driving Kits to get you started. Other sources of assistance may include: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. Other steps that are crucial to protect your organization from loss are listed below:

  • Review defensive driving techniques with company vehicle operators. Be sure to review “all” types of driving distractions.
  • Don’t use “any” electronic devices while driving (no hands-free or hand-held devices).
  • Don’t eat or smoke inside the vehicles.
  • Don’t apply make-up or conduct other grooming activities.
  • Don’t fixate on an object or event outside the vehicle that will take away your attention.
  • Don’t read books, maps, texts, email, etc… while driving. 
  • Do stay focused.
  • Do expect the unexpected.
  • Do keep a good following distance.
  • If you must talk or text, pull safely off the road before beginning any communication. 
  • Do allow sufficient time to reach your destination.

Driving is a skill that requires your full attention. Your actions on the road will impact others. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your mind on driving. Keep your hands on the wheel.