Drivers who have found themselves stuck in the middle of a ‘rush hour’ jam have seen examples of distracted driving at their most amusing. Like the guy eating a bowl of cereal and steering with his knees. Or someone brushing their teeth. Then there’s the one reading the paper spread across the steering wheel. Or attending to cosmetic touch ups. By comparison, simple cell phone use behind the wheel, the mother of all distracted driving instances, is unexciting. But be assured, the results of these indiscretions are no laughing matter.
On a Saturday night several years ago, a driver of a Cadillac sedan in Porterville, California, was distracted by his ringing cell phone. As it rang, it had apparently fallen, and when the driver searched for it, he veered into oncoming traffic. The driver and three passengers were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries. The other car held an elderly couple, and the man was killed, and the woman was seriously injured.
When a driver takes his eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds at 55 mph, they cover the length of an entire football field. The average text message takes that long to send. That’s 100 yards of driving blind. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the use of hand held devices creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. When you add severe weather conditions to that, you have a formula for disaster.
“Technology is moving much faster than our needs and creates more challenges,” said Pam Keimer, an Acadia claims adjuster in Albany, NY. “For example, computer tablets may be used to efficiently dispatch or deploy drivers in a towing operation but could wind up being the catalyst in an accident if used by an operator while driving.”
“Having a rule forbidding drivers from using their tablets while driving is a good starting point, but this does not guarantee that the rules will always be followed.” Pam Keimer pointed out, “Companies can make all the rules they want, but they should also consider the human nature of trying to cut corners.
There are computer programs available that may be installed on driver tablets that will deactivate them once the vehicle starts moving. It comes as no surprise that the technology does exist for just about any kind of use imaginable. The challenge now becomes keeping pace not only with our needs but with our bad habits. Especially behind the wheel.
Here are some key facts according to Distraction.gov, the official US government website for distracted driving:
- In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. (CTIA)
- Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes. (NHTSA)
- Drivers in their 20s are 23 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes, but are 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
- At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. (NOPUS)
- The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014. Since 2007, young drivers (age 16 to 24) have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers. (NHTSA)
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task at hand. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
- Watching a video
Cell phones, or in the case of truck drivers and emergency responders, tablets are by far the most frightening distractions, because they require focus and attention from the driver.
What Can Be Done
The best way to minimize the instances of distracted driving is through awareness of the consequences. And there is nothing humorous about them. The more we can raise awareness through PSA ads, media emphasis, DMV training, parental policies, etc., the more we can help minimize accidents from distracted driving.
Please contact your Acadia Loss Control representative for more information.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.