It’s not uncommon to see a distracted driver on your way into work each morning. You may see one driver applying her makeup while on the freeway. You may see another driver with a coffee cup in one hand and a breakfast sandwich in the other. You may see someone texting or even reading while behind the wheel.
In the last decade, distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of accidents with injuries. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that every day 1,000 people in the United States receive injuries in an accident where someone was driving distracted. Yet is distracted driving as dangerous as drunk driving, which for years public safety advocates have worked to reduce?
What the statistics and safety experts say
In 2018, 4,637 people died in distracted driving accidents. More than 10,500 died as the result of alcohol-impaired driving. Yet many driving safety experts believe distracted driving, specifically texting while driving, is more dangerous than drunk driving.
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three types of distracted driving:
- Texting while driving causes drivers to take their hands off the wheel (a manual distraction).
- Texting while driving causes drivers to think about something other than driving (a cognitive distraction).
- Texting while driving causes drivers to take their eyes off the road (a visual distraction).
What happens when you take your eyes off the road
By taking your eyes off the wheel to send a text, you could easily miss seeing a car suddenly stop in front of you. You may not see a pedestrian enter a crosswalk in front of you. You may miss it when a vehicle quickly moves into your lane or traffic slows down. Plus, drivers have to be very disciplined to put their phone away and avoid texting while driving or talking on their phone while driving.
While the penalties for distracted driving aren’t as severe as drunk driving, that doesn’t mean distracted driving isn’t just as dangerous. It can be, especially for young, inexperienced drivers. That’s why it’s important to break the habit of using your phone behind the wheel and be a good example to your children and teens about how to avoid distracted driving.