By: Shawnee Haight
Distracted driving means engaging in non-driving activities that distract the driver from the primary task of driving. Distracted driving can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off the main task of driving). Distracting activities include using a cell phone (talking or texting), eating, drinking, talking to passengers, applying makeup and other grooming activities, reading, using a navigation system, watching a video, and changing music selections on the radio, CD, or MP3 player.
Drivers Still Surfing Web While Driving, Survey Finds
Insurer State Farm began asking drivers in 2009 whether they went online while driving. The percentage of drivers who said they do so has nearly doubled, from 13% in 2009 to 24% this year. Among drivers ages 18-29, that number rose from 29% to 49%. There were also jumps in the percentages of people who read or respond to e-mail, and who read or update social media networks while driving. Most research on distracted driving and most laws against it have focused on texting while driving, which creates a crash risk 23 times greater than not doing so. Reading or sending a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, long enough to cover the length of a football field at 55 mph.
Laws, Education Not Enough to Curb Distracted Driving
Cell phone use while driving was estimated to cause over 300,000 total injuries annually, including 2,600 fatalities. The numbers increased 22% between 2005 and 2009. West Virginia is one of the 39 states that have banned text messaging by all drivers, while talking on a handheld device behind the wheel has been outlawed in 10 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Simulator Shows Dangers of Texting While Driving
The study reports that teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crash events directly related to talking on a cellphone or texting. For every six seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds with their eyes off the road.
Yes, Cellphones Can Be Dangerous. No, a Nationwide Ban Won't Work
Texting truck drivers are 23 times more likely to crash, according to a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study. A horrific crash that spurred the NTSB's recommendation involved a 19-year-old who had received or sent texts 11 times in the minutes preceding the accident that killed two and injured 38.
States Unlikely to Heed NTSB Call for Cell Ban
Federal transportation officials are citing that accident in pushing for states to enact an all-out ban on cellphone use by drivers, restricting the use even of hands-free devices. Lawmakers in Missouri had the chance, after two buses packed with high school band members slammed into a freeway wreck caused by a teenager who was sending a flurry of text messages, to impose tougher limits on driver cellphone use. The state has barred drivers 21 and younger from texting while driving since 2009. Several lawmakers proposed legislation the next year to extend that to all drivers but failed, partly because of concerns over whether it could be enforced.