Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Distracted While Driving

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Distracted While Driving Virtually anyone who has a driver’s license has been introduced to the idea that distracted driving causes accidents. However, the consequences of distracted driving are far more than just predictable and often taken lightly. Predictable events can be avoided. Since these are predictable events they are preventable. The choices that drivers make affect more people than they may realize, thus making them responsible for the consequences that result from those choices.

On a daily basis more than 15 American deaths and another 1,200 injuries are attributed to drivers that are distracted while driving on the very roads most of us use every day (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 7). Distractions can be controlled at a minimum by drivers that make the choice to drive responsibly. There are three types of distractions that have been labeled as the “triple threat” to driving; Visual distraction, manual distraction, and cognitive distraction are the makeup of this triple threat (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 6).

Paying more attention to texting than to crossing the street or driving a car portrays a visual distraction that can result in dire consequences. Texting has proven to take at least part of the driver’s visual focus away from the task of driving in order to read or send a text message (Gardner, page 1). Contents of text messages usually require the driver’s visual focus, even if for just a few seconds. The visual awareness is negatively affected when this happens because the driver is no longer watching the road and cannot react to unforeseen events in a timely manner.

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Elevated risks of being in an accident that involves texting while driving presents a serious public safety hazard. “This problem may become more severe as more texting teens become licensed drivers, and more adults add text messaging to their battery of cell phone communication abilities” (Gardner, page 1). The more attention that is paid to texting means that more attention is being diverted from performing activities that require visual perception, and which can escalate to manual distractions (Gardner, page 3).

One or both hands off the wheel of a car while driving is most often related to multi-tasking, and is considered a manual distraction that is categorized as a “preventable” contributor (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 6). Preventable driving behaviors that include dialing, talking and listening to cell phones contribute to road hazards at alarming rates. Delays in reacting to potential hazards while driving caused by preoccupations with mobile communications result in accidents that are often times more severe to the drivers and passengers involved in the accident.

Additional contributing factors to manual distractions are the use of GPS navigation systems, eating, drinking, and bending down to grab something off of the floor or inside a handbag while driving. Multi-tasking while driving is often dictated from our hectic lives at the cost of injury to ourselves or to others in correlation with both manual and cognitive distractions. Cognitive distractions occur when a driver’s mind is not focused on driving.

Listening to a favorite radio station, talking to another passenger, and being preoccupied with issues pertaining to work or family formulate a distractive environment for a driver. Drivers who talk on cell phones are four times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 7). This means that driving while talking on a cell phone is as risky as driving while drunk. Cognitive overload is described as being out of sync with the rhythm of the road and the rhythm of talk (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 7).

There are five tips on how to avoid common driving distractions: turn off your cell phone, use a hands free device only in cases of emergency, make sure all passengers have a safety belt equipped, eat before or after you drive, and program your GPS before you leave your driveway or parking lot. If you have to deal with any of these or other issues while driving pull over to the side of the road to address the given situation. Following these steps can assist in preventing the loss of life due to distracted driving.

The cognitive distractions caused by the use of mobile phones while driving usually cause vehicular accidents to be more severe, however there are steps that can be taken to improve both personal and public safety; it’s up to us to take those steps (Professional Safety, page 1). Visual, manual and cognitive distractions that occur simultaneously while driving are a recipe for vehicular related fatalities involving American teenagers, and often times unsuspecting victims as a result (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 6).

Hand-held cell phones involve visual distraction while dialing, manual distraction while holding the phone, and cognitive distraction throughout the whole use of the device (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 7). Informing old drivers and introducing new drivers to the dangers of being distracted while driving may raise support in preventing the use of hand held devices while driving. If our society does nothing to stress the importance of awareness while driving, the fatality statistics will only become more severe each passing month.

It can be very tempting to answer the cell phone, respond to a text message, reprogram the GPS, and perhaps even grab that bite to eat on the way to work but is the risk worth the cost? Resisting the temptation and focusing on the road will enable a driver to react to unexpected events and maybe avoid a collision with another unsuspecting driver. Personal responsibility ultimately is the solution to distracted driving and contributes to saving lives. “Just as it is no longer socially acceptable to drive without a seat belt, or drive drunk, it must no longer be acceptable to text while driving” (Gardner, page 10).

Driving is a demanding visual, manual, and cognitive activity that has no room for multi-tasking in it without risk to someone’s life or injury (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, page 7). References Distracted driving: Fast lane to disaster. (May 2012). Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 16(10), 6-7. Distracted Driving Problem Extends Beyond Texting. (February 2012). Professional Safety, 57(2), 24. Gardner, L. A. (November 2010). Wat 2 do abt txt’n & drv’n (aka: What to do about the problem of texting while driving? ). CPCU Ejournal, 63(11), 1-13.

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