Distracted Driving: The New Drunk Driving
As a Kentucky lawyer, I have witnessed the alarming increase in accidents related to distracted driving. This dangerous behavior, often underestimated, accounts for a significant percentage of car accident deaths and is now considered a preventable epidemic in the United States.
Distracted Driving: A Significant Contributor to Traffic Fatalities
Distracted driving accidents account for 25% of car accident deaths. It is especially troubling that teenagers, our most inexperienced drivers, constitute the largest demographic reporting distraction while driving during fatal accidents. Distracted driving is responsible for more than 58% of teen crashes, a staggering figure that underscores the critical need for education and awareness.
The Harrowing Numbers Behind Distracted Driving
In 2015 alone, distracted driving resulted in 391,000 injuries. During the same year, distracted driving contributed significantly to 3,477 traffic deaths. These figures should give pause to anyone getting behind the wheel. As reported by the Department of Motor Vehicles, nine people in the U.S. are killed daily due to distracted driving.
Regrettably, as there is no definitive method to test for distracted driving post-accident, it’s universally understood that accidents caused by distracted driving are under-reported. This increases the difficulty in assessing the full impact of distracted driving on our roads.
The Deadly Three Seconds
It takes merely three seconds of taking your eyes off the road for a crash to occur. This grim reality is particularly poignant for teens, with car crashes being the leading cause of death for this age group. In fact, 16 to 19-year-olds are three times more likely to die in a car crash compared to other age groups.
Distracted Driving: The New Drunk Driving
As Americans spend more time on the road, accidents and deaths have unfortunately increased. Distracted driving has been dubbed the “new drunk driving” due to the similar psychological pattern observed: drivers tend to engage in distracted driving until they are caught or involved in an accident.
Despite being hard to predict and catch proactively, an astounding 80% of drivers admit to various forms of distracted driving, including activities such as changing clothes, steering with a knee, painting nails, and shaving.
The Shift in Teen Driving Dangers
Although we’ve witnessed a decrease in drinking and driving fatalities among teens, the number of car accident deaths hasn’t dropped. This is largely attributed to the rise of distracted driving. This shift in the primary dangers facing young drivers underscores the urgency of addressing and curbing distracted driving habits.
In conclusion, distracted driving is a critical issue that demands our attention and action. Legal penalties, education, and innovative technologies that help prevent distracted driving can all contribute to a safer future on our roads. As a legal professional in Kentucky, I urge all drivers to understand the dire consequences of distracted driving and to make a conscious effort to focus solely on the road when behind the wheel.
Cell Phones and Distracted Driving: A Dangerous Duo
In the context of distracted driving, the role of cell phones cannot be overstated. It’s estimated that 660,000 drivers use cell phones while driving during daylight hours. Reading a text takes drivers’ eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, during which, at 55 miles per hour, a vehicle can cover the length of a football field.
This alarming distraction leads to approximately 1.6 million crashes annually. In fact, texting while driving has proven to be six times deadlier than driving while intoxicated, contributing to 25% of car accidents.
The Lethal Reality for Teens: Texting and Driving
The toll on our teens is particularly sobering. Each day, 11 teens lose their lives due to texting and driving. Despite the known risks, the CDC reports that 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, 35% of those polled admitted to doing it.
These same teens were found to be more likely to ride with a driver who is drunk, more likely to drive drunk themselves, and less likely to wear a seatbelt. A quarter of them admit to answering a text every time they drive, and one-fifth of teens (alongside one-tenth of parents) admit to having extended texting conversations while driving.
The Paradox of Perception and Reality
According to an Everquote survey, although 96% of respondents considered themselves safe drivers, over half confessed to using their phone while driving. The New York Times cites mobile apps as a significant reason behind the increase in distracted driving. This prevalent phone use results in a 400% increase in the time drivers’ eyes are off the road, making an accident 23 times more likely.
Alarmingly, despite the clear risks, 77% of adults and 55% of teen drivers believe they can successfully manage to text while driving. An NHTSA survey revealed only 20% of teenagers believe texting impacts their driving performance, yet teens that text and drive are found to cross over lanes 10% of their total drive time.
The Role of FOMO in Distracted Driving
The “fear of missing out” (FOMO) is a significant contributor to texting and driving. This anxiety, caused by the prospect of missing an exciting or interesting event, leads 28% of drivers to use their phone when they feel they might miss something important.
Consequently, drivers who talk on the phone are 2.2 times more likely to be in a car accident, and the likelihood increases to 12.2 times when dialing a phone. A staggering 43% of drivers admit to texting and driving to stay connected with friends and family, and a CBS survey revealed that 33% of respondents admitted to using a phone while driving.
The expectation of immediate response drives 27% of drivers to text and drive. Furthermore, 8% of drivers surveyed by Consumer Reports admitted to watching videos on their phone while driving.
The Misconception about Hands-Free Devices
Many drivers assume that using a hands-free device mitigates the dangers associated with distracted driving. However, this is far from the truth. A hands-free device can distract a driver for at least 27 seconds after its use, proving that even without a phone in hand, the risk of distraction is very real.
This misconception emphasizes the critical need for comprehensive education about all forms of distracted driving. Drivers need to understand that any activity diverting their attention from the road can have deadly consequences.
Conclusion: A Call to Action
As a Kentucky lawyer witnessing the devastation of distracted driving, I encourage all drivers to acknowledge these facts and reassess their behaviors behind the wheel. Cell phone use, particularly among teenagers, has a severe and deadly impact on road safety.
Distracted driving is not an isolated issue—it’s a widespread, systemic problem requiring a multi-faceted approach. Legislative measures, technological advances, education, and personal responsibility must all play a part in reducing this preventable cause of injury and death on our roads.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
- NHTSA (https://www.nhtsa.gov/)