Dangers of Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in ten crashes that result in the death of an individual involve distracted driving, which adds up to around 3,000 deaths annually. Distractions surround us every day on the road, including everything from billboard advertisements and the radio to using cell phones or GPS navigation systems.

Some distractions cannot be avoided, but many can be prevented if the driver is acting responsibly on the road and practicing safe driving behaviors. Distracted driving can be fatal, and it is important that drivers limit distractions so that they can focus their needed attention on the road ahead.

Dangers of Visual Distractions

It is often difficult to record the exact extent to which distracted driving is involved in road accidents, but it is an undisputed fact that distracting behaviors put you and others on the road at serious risk for injury or death. It is fairly straightforward why distractions involving handheld devices such as cellphones or other objects that deliberately take your eyes off of the road are so dangerous.

If your eyes are not on the road, you are simply not seeing potential hazards that can come your way in a split second, such as a car stopping fast in front of you or an animal crossing the road.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study conducted in 2009 revealed that a person who is texting while driving spends an average of five seconds with their eyes off the road each time they look away. Though five seconds does not seem like much, if you are traveling at 55 miles per hour, you are covering a distance equal to the length of a football field (effectively blindfolded.)

Dangers of Cognitive Distractions

However, visual distractions are not the only dangerous type of distracted driving. Another serious danger is cognitive distraction, in which your mind in some manner is not focused on the task of driving. These types of distractions include, but are not limited to:

  • Hands-free cell phone devices
  • Talking to passengers
  • Listening to the radio (music, news, etc.)
  • Daydreaming
  • Listening to directions (such as on a navigation system)

The National Security Council conducted a study in April 2012 that proved the dangers of hands-free cell phone devices, which illustrated the risks of cognitive distractions. The “brain drain” associated with multitasking greatly reduces a driver’s ability to effectively assess the hazards around them while driving. Although they are looking at the road, drivers using hands-free devices are not actually watching the road, thus causing cognitive distraction that is just as dangerous as visual distraction. The study termed this phenomenon “inattention blindness,” which affects drivers’ ability to judge their surroundings in order to drive safely.

More Information

In all, no matter what type of distracting behavior you may be engaging in, you are putting yourself and others at risk of serious injury or even death. Statistics gathered on the dangers of distracted driving are overwhelmingly clear – there is a strong correlation between drivers engaging in distracting behaviors and serious accidents. For more information on the dangers of distracted driving, visit the following resources: