Distracted driving is a huge problem when it comes to road safety as each day around 1,200 people are injured, and more than 15 people die on the roads as a direct result of distracted driving. The problem of distracted driving is now more prevalent than ever before, and is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately as it is costing innocent lives.
What is Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is when someone operates a vehicle whilst being distracted in some way by another task. The most common distractions these days are mobile phones, accounting for 20% of distracted driving accidents. Satellite navigation systems have also been known to cause a large number of accidents as people take their focus off of the road and onto the device. Texting on a phone is by far the worst action when it comes to distracted driving, as it involves three different types of distraction in one go ;
- Visual – Driver is not looking at the road
- Manual – Driver has one or more hands off of the wheel, engaging in another action
- Cognitive – Driver’s thoughts are not focused on operating the vehicle
Any one of these three distraction types is unacceptable as they create a dangerous situation where full control and attention on driving the car has been put aside in order to complete a secondary task. When driving at high speeds, or even crawling in traffic for that matter, it only takes a split second for the situation to change, and if you are not fully aware of your surroundings and in control of the vehicle, an accident is likely to ensue.
Motorcyclists at Greater Risk
The problem of distracted driving is not limited to those driving cars, as anyone operating a motorcycle can also be distracted from their focus on the road. Figures taken in 2009 indicated that motorcyclists and light trucks had the highest proportion of distracted driving accidents, with 12% of motorcycle accidents being attributed to distracted driving.
Apart from the accidents caused by distracted motorcyclists themselves, the main concern for bikers is that they are the most vulnerable group of road users. Because of the size and speed of a motorcycle, it requires more attention from other drivers to notice when a motorbike is near them. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration for an accident to occur, and because a motorbike is harder to see in mirrors than other vehicles, a driver may not realize that a motorcycle is coming up alongside them.
Surprisingly enough, a large percentage of accidents involving motorcycles and distracted drivers actually come at slow speeds and in heavy traffic. The main reason for this is that drivers see this as an opportunity to text on their phone, grab something to eat, or change the CD, and motorcyclists often slip through the traffic, in between other vehicles. These two activities result in a hotspot of accidents.
The Cost of Distracted Driving
Apart from the very real and saddening injury and fatality figures connected with distracted driving, there is also a huge financial cost to those responsible for accidents. These costs come from a variety of reasons including fines, court costs, lawsuits, insurance claims, medical attention, vehicle replacement and repair jobs. Many insurance policies will not pay out on the policy if you were responsible for the accident through distracted driving. In many states a percentage of blame is placed on each party making it hard for any one person to collect in full for their damages. Anyone who has been in a crash, even if it was relatively minor will tell you that there is a price to pay.
You cannot be responsible for the actions of other road users; however you can take responsibility for your own. It comes down to each and every one of us to make sure that we do not end up adding to the statistics and devastation of distracted driver accidents on the roads. If you are in your car, simply place your phone in the back of the vehicle or out of reach so that you are not tempted to use it while on the go. If you are not the one distracted you will want to keep you eyes peeled for those who are not as “aware” as you and be ready to take evasive action. Always leave an “out” in the event you are at the wrong end of a distracted driver.
Evelyn Harrow writes on behalf of one of the UK’s leading providers of car finance. She is strongly interested in road safety issues and before moving to the UK used to arrange a small meet up of parents in Southampton, PA to discuss the matter.