Just Two Seconds of Distracted Driving Doubles Your Crash Risk
Distracted driving is deadly driving. In fact, there have been over 30,000 fatal crashes in the U.S. involving distracted drivers over the past decade alone.
Behind the wheel, you must focus on a single task: driving safely. Texting, messaging, adjusting the radio, setting your navigation, taking selfies, applying makeup, eating, and drinking all divert your attention. That makes you a distracted driver.
If you are driving at 55mph, in the time it takes to send or read a brief text – about four seconds – your vehicle has traveled the length of a football field. Even a two-second glance off the road can double the risk of a crash or close call. Teen drivers whose parents drive distracted are two to four times as likely to drive distracted themselves.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s an excellent time to think about your choices while driving.
Annual NHTSA Campaign Focuses on the Dangers of Distracted Driving
The annual NHTSA campaign is running with the slogan of U Drive. U Text. U Pay. and reminds us of the dangers and legal consequences of driving while distracted, especially texting or messaging. Nearly every U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico) has laws that make it illegal to text while driving.
In recognition of the NHTSA campaign, police in these jurisdictions will be making a more significant effort from April 7-11 to enforce texting laws and remind drivers of the dangers posed by driving while distracted.
Types of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving falls into four main categories:
- Visual distractions – These cause you to take your eyes off the road, such as turning to talk with a child in the back seat or a passenger sitting next to you.
- Auditory distractions – These sounds cause a shift in your attention, like talking with passengers or listening to music.
- Manual distractions – Eating, drinking, adjusting the radio or Bluetooth setting, etc., take one or both hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive distractions – These include mental preoccupations, strong emotional reactions, or when you’re too tired to pay attention. Your mind wanders, and you are not focused on driving.
Texting and messaging are the most dangerous form of distracted driving because they combine cognitive, visual, and manual distractions.
National Roadway Safety Strategy
In January 2022, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) announced the formation of a National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) to address the crisis in roadway accidents resulting in a fatality or severe injury.
Although roadway fatalities had been declining for several years, recently they have begun to climb again. Between 2019 and 2020, for example, fatalities in roadway crashes increased by 7.2% overall and by 23% in the average per mile driven. About 10% of all roadway fatalities and serious injuries involve distracted driving in any given year. For more information, visit the DOT’s NRSS website.
End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) provides science-based presentations and speakers on the dangers of distracted driving for schools, community organizations, and businesses. EndDD.org was organized as a foundation in memory of Casey Feldman, a 21-year-old killed while walking in a crosswalk by a distracted driver who said he never saw her.
EndDD.org offers several helpful resources for companies and families:
- Company Cell Phone Policy – Download and post an employer policy template after inserting your company name and logo.
- Family Safe Driving Agreement – Download, print, and sign with family members to hold each other accountable for safe driving habits.
Drive Safely and Responsibly
Distracted driving on U.S. roads has reached epidemic levels. Drivers aged 16 to 24 have the highest rates of distraction by devices, but other age groups aren’t far behind, and we’re all at risk of the consequences. For a safe ride every time, the NHTSA urges drivers and passengers to follow these safety tips:
- Need to send or respond to a text? It is never safe to send or read a text while driving. Pull off the road to a safe location (or onto the shoulder).
- Designate a passenger to be your “designated texter” while driving. Let them access your phone to send or respond to calls and messages.
- Do not scroll through social media or any other app while driving. We all know how habit-forming cell phones can be. If you can’t resist yours while driving, put it somewhere that it can’t be seen or heard – like the glove box or trunk – until reaching your destination.
- Passengers, if you see your driver texting, looking at their phone apps, or otherwise distracted, ask them to put the phone down and focus on their driving.
- Everyone, ask friends to join you in not driving while distracted. Take the National Safety Council’s Just Drive pledge and share it on social media.
It only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause (or fail to avoid) an accident, and the person who doesn’t survive could well be you or someone you love.