Distracted driving ripe with dangers

  • Published
  • By Kristopher S. Grilley
  • 88th Air Base Wing, Safety Office

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The next time you’re at a stoplight, take a look around. Look at the vehicle next to you, on your left and right.

You might see the mother of two turned around, trying to give her baby a pacifier. Or you might see a businessman, dressed in a suit and tie, using a hands-free earpiece to talk on the phone while eating his lunch. What about that teenager texting his or her friend?

Which one is the distraction? The cellphone? The car? The driver? To be clear, there is only one distraction a driver cannot control: sneezing. Therefore, driving distracted is a choice.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive.

A visual distraction is one that takes your eyes off the road. It may be as simple as looking over at a classic car while driving. A manual distraction removes your hands from the wheel. Changing the radio station is an example. Cognitive distractions take your mind off the road. They include thinking about personal life events, which can lead to becoming distracted.

Although all distractions can be considered dangerous, texting while driving is the worst.

All three types take form while texting and driving. You are looking at the phone, using your fingers to text and thinking about what message to transmit.

To put this in sports terms, can you imagine driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed? At 55 mph, you’re doing just that when choosing to text and drive.

NHTSA statistics paint grim picture

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics:

  • Every day, about eight people in the United States are killed in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. In 2020, over 3,100 lives were taken, and 324,000 people were hurt. 
  • 7 percent of drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes were linked to distracted driving.
  • Drivers in their 20s make up 25 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Drivers engaged in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing or texting) while using hand-held phones and other portable devices are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-distracted drivers.

If it’s that urgent to send a message or answer the phone, take a few extra minutes to pull safely off the road first. Stop signs and traffic jams DO NOT qualify.

Preventing distracted driving is easier than you think: Simply don’t do it. It is the driver’s decision to change the song, take their eyes off the road or pick up the phone.

There are smartphone applications you can download to prevent distracted driving. For example, TextNoMore is an app providing retailer coupons when choosing not to text and drive. Other applications can actually disable your smartphone while the vehicle is moving.

The easiest option is to put the phone down until you reach your destination. You do not want to risk your life or someone else’s for a text. For more information on distracted driving, visit www.distraction.gov.