It’s estimated that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 due to distracted driving.
That makes 2016 the deadliest year on the road since 2007.
Last year saw a 6% increase over 2015 and a 14% increase over 2014 – the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years. Estimated cost to society was close to $432 billion.
It only takes 5 seconds to text and get into an accident. But it’s not just texting. Distractions are endless including surfing the Internet, eating, drinking, reading, adjusting the radio, putting on makeup, and shaving. And it’s not just teens that are distracted.
So what makes us want to do all of these things while driving? For one, we’ve come to think that multitasking is a valuable skill. It can be, but not when driving a 4,000 lb. vehicle. In reality, multitasking while driving is like drunk driving.
We’ve also come to believe that being connected with our friends and social media is a necessity. The rise of in-vehicle technology that allows for hands-free calling has reinforced this idea. Even though this allows you to talk and carry on a “hands free” conversation, it is still be a major distraction for a driver and can lead to a potentially catastrophic event.
Because of the serious consequences that arise from distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to remind drivers and passengers about the dangers of distracted driving.
So, what can you do to stop distracted driving?
- Pull off to the side of the road if you need to take or make a call.
- Power off your cell phone so that it will not distract you.
- Finish dressing and grooming before you leave home.
- Eat meals or snacks before or after your trip.
- Adjust mirrors, heating, or air conditioning before you leave.
- Be sure to secure children and pets before you start your drive.
What you can do as a passenger to stay safe:
- Offer assistance to help navigate if the driver can’t find a location.
- Don’t argue or fight with the driver during travel.
- Volunteer to handle music, climate controls, answer phone calls, or texts.
- Request the driver put the phone down if you see them using it. This could save both of your lives.
There are currently 14 states that have laws in place prohibiting all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving, 37 states ban all cell phone use by new or teenage drivers, and 46 states prohibit texting while driving completely. California recently passed a law that prohibits holding a mobile device for any reason.
When you get behind the wheel, disconnect yourself from temptations that distract or turn your attention away from the road. No distraction is worth a human life.
Remember, it only takes a few seconds to take a life or to safe one.