Stuck in traffic. Checking directions. Change of plans.
These all seem like good reasons to give your phone a quick glance when you're on the road. Unfortunately, it can also be the reason you don't make it to your destination.
April is distracted driving awareness month, an effort to make the road a safer place for all drivers.
While distracted driving is one of the top causes in car accidents, it is nearly impossible to determine the percentage of accidents that are a direct cause of distracted driving. In 2017, an estimated 40,000 people were killed in car accidents in the US. Many other non fatal crashes also occured, with some accidents not reported at all. This makes it incredibly difficult to gauge how big the problem of distracted driving truly is.
In an attempt to get a better grasp on the numbers, an analysis conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC) and Nationwide Insurance reviewed 180 fatal crashes that occured between 2009 and 2011. What they concluded was that the number of distracted driver accidents is severely underreported and the problem is far more widespread than many people think. But, first things first:
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving refers to drivers who are using their cell phones, eating, changing the music, or any other activity that takes your attention off the road.
To put distracted driving in perspective:
- Just 5 seconds of distraction while driving at 90km is equal to travelling the length of a football field while blindfolded.
- Drivers who use their phones while driving, including when stopped at red lights, are four times more likely to get into an accident.
- Even when using hands-free devices, a driver's field of vision is limited by almost 50% when they are on the phone.
- Drivers are on average distracted an additional 27 seconds after interacting with their mobile device.
How does this affect the study?
The problem with determining the number of car accidents caused by distracted is that many forms of distractions are difficult to prove unless the driver discloses their distraction. While distractions can take many forms, the most commonly discussed is the use of cell phones. The NSC study determined that there are only 3 levels of knowledge when it comes to accidents involving cell phones:
- Known, where a driver admits to being on the phone.
- Suspected, where witness accounts and evidence on the scene suggest that the driver was distracted, but there is no hard proof.
- Unknown, where only one vehicle is involved, there were no witnesses and the driver is seriously injured or killed.
Of the 180 fatal crash cases they examined, only 52% were coded as having involved cell phone use. And those were only the casese that proved that a driver was on the phone at the time of the accident.
This does not include accidents where a driver was otherwise distracted, such as playing with the radio, putting on makeup or eating behind the wheel.
#JustDrive through April
In an attempt to decrease the number of accidents on the road, the NSC presents #JustDrive, a campaign that raises awareness to all the ways that drivers can cut down on distractions and be safer on the road.
Because not all distractions are always avoidable, car manufacturers have developped and implemented a wide range of safety features that are meant to keep all vehicles on the road a little bit safer. However, while our vehicles are constantly being updated with new technology to help prevent and lessen the severity of accidents, the best safety feature a vehicle can be equipped with is an alert driver.
Help spread the word this April by putting away your cell phone, putting down your sandwhich and being alert to what is happening around you on the road. It could save you from an accident. It could save your life.