Distracted driving: a clear and present danger

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Distracted driving: a clear and present danger

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately nine people are killed and over 1,000 injured each day in the United States in distracted driving crashes.  Distracted driving is defined as doing anything while driving that takes your attention away from driving.

Types of distraction

The CDC cites three primary types of distraction.  They include:

  • Visual
  • Manual
  • Cognitive

When most people think of distracted driving, the first thing that comes to mind is a visual distraction.  This involves taking one’s eyes off the road.  Texting or operating a navigational system are common examples.  The CDC states that at 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds is long enough to cover the length of an entire football field.

Distracted drivingManual distraction describes a driver taking their hands off of the wheel.  This can take the form of eating or drinking in the car or searching for something in a purse or wallet, for example.

Cognitive distraction involves a driver’s mind not focusing on the task of driving.  Talking to a passenger or being preoccupied with something are examples.  Drivers engaged in some sort of listening activity, such as podcasts or radio shows, can also take the driver’s focus off of their driving.  Talking on a cell phone through a headset, while often presumed to be safer due to minimizing manual distraction, still contributes to a considerable amount of cognitive distraction.

Federal agencies begin to take notice  

In December 2013, The National Highway Traffic Administration issued a report to Congress entitled “Understanding the effects of distracted driving and developing strategies to reduce resulting deaths and injuries”.  In it, they reveal many enlightening and alarming facts regarding distracted driving.  For example, while it may not come as a shock, young drivers are at the highest risk of being involved in a crash due to distracted driving.

In recent years, this issue has begun to come under the consideration of many authorities.  The problem of distracted driving has become such a large and important issue that it has reached the highest levels of government.  In 2009, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order that prohibited federal employees from texting in situations that might distract them.  This applied to them driving government vehicles or when using a cell phone issued to them by the government while driving any vehicle.  Other restrictions have been put in place as well.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted regulations preventing commercial truck and bus driving from texting while driving in 2010, and in 2011 took things a step further by banning all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers.  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned texting by anyone driving a vehicle holding hazardous materials.  The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) banned train employees from using electronic devices while performing certain tasks at work.  And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advised airlines to enact policies to minimize distractions in the cockpit.  All of this is detailed in the NHTSA’s 2013 report.

If you’ve been involved in a distracted driving crash or have any other personal injury or accident related questions, contact our office today.