Preventing distracted driving mishaps
The New Drunk Driving
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention, Ground Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
The Army is a broad representation of our nation and not immune to distracted driving. Data over the last several fiscal years indicates an increase in distracted driving mishaps among Soldiers with 27 confirmed cases. These mishaps, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. As reporting tools continue to improve, the data will reveal that fact.What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, and fiddling with the audio, entertainment or navigation system. Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. You cannot operate a vehicle safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.Some sobering stats
Types of distracted driving
- Distracted driving accounts for about 25 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities.
- In 2015, 391,000 injuries were caused in distracted driving-related accidents. In that same year, distracted driving was cited as a major factor in 3,477 traffic deaths.
- Nine people in the U.S. are killed each day as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Since there is no way to test for distracted driving after an accident occurs, it’s widely believed the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving are vastly underreported.
- It takes only three seconds after a driver’s attention has been diverted from the road for a crash to occur.
- Driving distracted is compared to drunk driving since it follows the same psychological pattern: When drivers get away with driving distracted, they then continue to practice this bad habit until a crash occurs or they are caught and suffer consequences.
- More than 80 percent of drivers admit to blatantly hazardous behavior while driving, such as changing clothes, steering with a foot, painting nails or even shaving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified three types of driver distractions:
- Visual tasks, such as something as simple as checking a navigation system, which causes a driver to divert his or her attention from the road.
- Manual tasks, which is something that requires a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel, such as reaching for a drink or cellphone.
- Cognitive tasks, which is causing a driver’s mind and focus to wander to something besides the task of driving.
- NHTSA found that those who eat or drink while driving are 80 percent more likely to get into an accident.
- The largest cause of distracted driving crashes (62 percent) is a driver being lost in thought or letting their mind wander. Keeping your mind on the road is just as important as keeping your eyes on it.
- Unsurprisingly, cellphone use is the second largest cause of distracted driving; 14 percent of distracted driving-related deaths comes from cellphone use (as of 2015).
- Advanced technology in vehicles contributes to distracted driving; 53 percent of drivers believe that if car manufacturers incorporate “infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology into vehicles, it must be safe to use.
- When a driver is listening to a conversation or music, the brain power he or she dedicates to driving decreases by 40 percent.
The science behind distracted driving
- Texting while driving results in 400 percent more time with a driver’s eyes off the road and increases the chance of an accident by 23 times.
- About 660,000 drivers use their cellphones while driving during daylight hours, creating a large potential for crashes and fatalities.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers who reported frequent texting while driving also proved to be more likely to ride with a driver who’d been drinking, more likely to drink and drive, and less likely to wear a seat belt.
- An AAA poll revealed that while 94 percent of drivers acknowledge the vast dangers of texting and driving, 35 percent of those polled admitted to still committing the act.
- According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes annually.
- Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol.
- 1 out of every 4 traffic crashes that occur in the U.S. are caused by cellphone usage.
- Each day, 11 teens die as a result of texting and driving.
Distracted driving laws
- David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, cited that one reason it’s so hard to stay away from electronic devices while driving is because of the smartphone’s addictive nature.
- An incoming text, email or social media update on our smartphones results in an increase in dopamine to the brain, which is a chemical that attributes to the feeling of arousal, leading to a compulsion to check your phone, even if doing so will knowingly put you in danger.
- Each time an individual operates their phone while behind the wheel without a suboptimal outcome, it reinforces the idea that it’s safe to do so and that person can successfully multitask again and again, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s distracted driving research lab director, Despina Stavrinos.
- As of June 2017, 47 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving.
- 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia ban drivers from using handheld phones as of June 2017.
- While many states are enacting laws against texting and driving, the effectiveness of these laws requires further study, according to the CDC.
- In Alaska, texting and driving can result in a whopping $10,000 fine.
- The median fine for a first-time texting-and-driving offense is $100.
- In 2012, a Massachusetts teen was convicted of homicide as a result of a texting-and-driving accident leading to a fatality. The teen served a year in jail.
- In 2016, a 17-year-old in Anchorage, Alaska, was sentenced to a year in prison for criminally negligent homicide after killing a 27-year-old mother of two in a distracted-driving collision.
- In 2011, a California woman was sentenced to six years in prison after killing a 23-year-old driver, colliding with her car at 85 mph because she was distracted by using her cellphone.
Distracted driving is a complex issue that has demanded the attention of law enforcement and safety officials nationwide. Don’t become a statistic. Fight against distracted driving to keep our roads safe and to set a good example for other drivers!FYI
The following links are provided for additional information on distracted driving and national PSA videos:https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-4-Cars-Trucks/Distracted-Drivinghttps://www.dmv.org/distracted-driving.phphttps://www.itcanwait.com/homehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtQ9H1MrrPo