April has been designated National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 1.6 million automobile accidents each year are caused by distracted motorists using their handheld or hands-free devices or texting while they are driving. The number of crashes due to cell phone use is higher than that of crashes caused by any other type of distraction, and the estimates may be conservative; many experts believe that the problem is massively under-reported. Teenagers and young adults are the most likely to talk and text while driving, but people of all ages practice the dangerous habit.
How Distracted Drivers Cause Accidents
Distracted driving consists of three elements: visual distraction, manual distraction, and mental distraction. Using a cell phone to talk or text involves all three. Texting or dialing takes drivers’ eyes away from the road and their hands off the steering wheel. When engaged in conversation, they’re not thinking about potential driving dangers and are less prepared for the unexpected. It’s important to note that drivers using cell phones may only see half of what is in their immediate road environment; this means they could easily miss stop signs, traffic lights, animals, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Even a momentary distraction can produce a lapse in response time or judgment that could prove fatal.
Doesn’t Hands-Free Technology Solve the Problem?
A majority of Americans believe that hands-free devices are safe to use while driving, but more than 30 separate safety studies have demonstrated that this isn’t true. The false idea is supported by lawmakers focused on banning handheld devices and car manufacturers that install integrated hands-free technology into their automobiles. In reality, it’s been shown that although the human brain can quickly toggle between different tasks, it can’t do two things at the same time with equal focus. When a driver is talking on a cell phone or listening to a conversation, the area of his or her brain responsible for processing moving images suffers a 33% decrease in activity. Alarmingly, new studies have suggested that using voice-to-text technology is even more distracting than manually typing texts.
Make a Commitment to Safety This Spring
Along with other advocacy groups, the NSC is urging all Americans to stop cell phone use while driving during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and beyond. To ensure the safest driving conditions, drivers should silence or turn off their cell phones, or place them out of reach in glove compartments or trunks to avoid temptation. Voice mail greetings should alert callers that a phone’s owner is driving. Some GPS-enabled smartphones have a feature that automatically detects motion and temporarily changes the voice mail greeting. Employers can show support for the NSC’s efforts by creating workplace policies that prohibit cell phone use while driving. If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, the attorneys at Jacobs Law can help you recover your losses. Fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation, or reach us by phone at 317-520-9283.