Distracted driving can be very dangerous in Southern Maryland.
Diverting one's attention from the road for mere seconds can have serious, and potentially fatal, consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found distracted driving kills more than 15 people each day while injuring more than 1,200. Any activity that takes attention away from driving is considered a distraction. These include taking your hands off the wheel, daydreaming or engaging in any behavior that takes your eyes off of the road. Certain activities are known distractions, and understanding which habits can be dangerous and making strides to correct behaviors can help save lives, prevent injuries and reduce accident-related expenses.
A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicates 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes in the United States involve some form of driver distraction. This distraction took place a mere three seconds before the vehicle crash. An Allstate Canada marketing survey of 1,605 Canadian adults conducted between July 26 and July 28 found that, although the vast majority of Canadians thinks driving while distracted is unacceptable, nearly three out of four Canadian drivers admits to engaging in a behavior that is considered a distraction. That is perhaps in part because drivers are not aware just how distracting some the following behaviors truly are.
Using mobile phones
Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and near-crashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
Accident rates have increased thanks to texting, which involves a person taking his or her hands and eyes off of the road. A 2009 study by Car and Driver magazine compared the dangers of texting while driving to the effects of driving drunk to see which would be more dangerous under the same conditions. Measuring the time it takes to brake after being alerted by a red light to stop, the reaction time was recorded when the driver was legally drunk, reading an e-mail and sending a text. Texting easily elicited the slowest response time.
Ironically, in January 2011, Texas man Chance Bothe drove off of a cliff after texting that he had to stop texting or risk dying in a car accident. Bothe survived but sustained significant injuries and had to be revived from death three times.
Whether there's a pet bouncing in the front seat or children being boisterous in the back, passengers and items moving around the car are significant distractions. Turning around to look at the kids or to reach for a ball that may be rolling around on the floor of the car can take a person's eyes off the road. If something really is important and needs to be addressed, it is much safer to pull over and take care of it before getting back on the road.
Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Perhaps they're checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.
Those who haven't quite mastered walking and chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person's hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting.
Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.
Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.
When driving, attention should be placed on the task of safely getting from point A to point B. All other activities taking place in the vehicle are distractions that can end up risking a person's life.
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