Despite many factors being out of the driver’s control while behind the wheel, such as weather or defective car parts, almost every car accident can be prevented. The keys to this prevention are in visual identification of the problem, quick thinking and vehicular control. None of these things can be enacted if the driver is engaging in distracted driving.
A Study Proves the Frequency of Distracted Driving
According to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, many things we know to be at the root of distracted driving are even more dangerous than earlier thought. Texting, talking on cell phones and even changing radio stations can be blamed as direct causes of car accidents, as reported in the VT study.
Aaron Crane, a Phoenix auto accident lawyer of Cantor Crane, says the number of people engaging in distracted driving is at an all time high. He said, “Drivers ignore expert warnings about distracted driving, despite knowing the risks of these behaviors. Phoenix has experienced a surge in auto accidents, with more occurring now than for the past 50 years.”
The study conducted by Virginia Tech involved installation of cameras and sensors in study subjects’ cars for three years. Resulting footage indicated just reaching to pick up your phone is enough of a distraction to result in a car accident.
Findings included a shocking statistic among these drivers. That is, the study subjects were engaging in distracted driving almost 70 percent of the time they were operating their vehicle.
According to Crane, this terrible picture of human behavior is actually better than the reality of most drivers. He said, “These volunteers knew they were being watched, so it is likely that they tempered their behaviors. Most drivers do not have reason to temper their personal behaviors like this. That should terrify all of us when we are sharing the road.”
The Multitasking Myth of Distracted Driving
The National Safety Council reported that cell phone-related auto crashes, one type of common distracted driving, are underreported. They blame the myth of multitasking for why many drivers believe themselves capable of driving while using their handheld devices.
The NSC clarifies that both driving and talking on the cell phone require much of a person’s attention and cannot be effectively or safely combined as “multitasking.” They illustrate this point by noting that driving while talking on the phone is the same as trying to read a book while talking on the phone. Neither set of circumstances can be effectively multitasked due to the brain’s limitations.
Crashes are often caused by people on their cell phone while behind the wheel because they suffer delayed braking times and do not mentally register traffic signals. A recent accident report analysis revealed that four of every five auto accidents are caused by distracted driving.
Many people think that hands-free cell phones are the answer to this problem. But the NSC’s 2012 whitepaper, “Understanding the Distracted Brain: Why Driving While Using Hands-Free Cell Phones Is Risky Behavior,” clarifies that vision is the most important sense when driving an automobile. While this is nothing new, how hands-free devices affect vision is remarkable:
- Drivers using hands-free cell phones “look at” but do not “see” what is right in front of them. Their brains do not register objects in their direct line of sight. According to NSC estimates, 50 percent of visual information in their driving environment is not noticed when talking on a cell phone.
- Researchers call this lack of visual awareness “inattention blindness.”
- People using their cell phones while driving, even hands-free devices, are unable to effectively monitor surroundings, respond to situations or identify hazards.
Distracted Driving in Political and Legal Arenas
In the political arena, lawmakers are eager to ban cellphone use behind the wheel, entirely.
- The NTSB recommend all 50 states and Washington DC ban all handheld or cellular device use while driving
- 31 states have outlawed teen driver use of cell phones altogether, when driving
- An Executive Order bans federal employees from texting behind the wheel
- OSHA has issued rules governing employee cell phone use while driving, as have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration
If you or someone you love have been injured by a distracted driver, you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney today.
Thanks to our friend and blog author, Aaron Crane of Cantor Crane, for his insight into the hazards of distracted driving.