Real Talk About Distracted Driving

Over the past decade, cell phone usage has skyrocketed and with that new distraction came an increase in vehicle crashes.

When you think of “distracted driving” you’re probably picturing teenagers chewing bubble gum, making eye contact through the rear-view mirror while talking to friends in the back seat, reading and replying to text messages, Facebook, Whatsup, Snapchat, swiping left, swiping right … all while steering their vehicle in and out of traffic.

You’re probably not imagining YOURSELF switching to a new podcast, changing playlists on Spotifty, answering a phone call, or looking at the GPS map.

That’s the thing about distracted driving: One of the biggest obstacles to stopping it is that no one thinks they are the problem. Everyone thinks they’re a better driver than others. We’ve all seen other drivers distracted by a cell phone and we shake our heads, angry. However, when we’re distracted, we never stop to realize we’re doing the exact same thing and posing the exact same risks.

What about the hands-free device you bought just so you could drive safely while still using your cell phone? Turns out, they’re not really a safe solution.

Hands-Free Device – Not as Safe as You Think

You’re not alone if you thought a hands-free device was keeping you safe. Afterall, 80% of people who responded to a National Safety Council survey said they were not aware of the distraction and crash risks. They thought they were safe on their hands-free cell phones.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There’s a “hidden” distraction that isn’t talked about as much – cognitive distraction, which involves taking your mind off the road in any way. Even just talking on a hands-free device affects your driving.

Check out this study: Transport Canada’s Ergonomics Division tracked the eye movements of drivers using hands-free phones. They were not actually holding the phone in their hands, but the results are not what you might expect. The blue boxes in Figures 4 and 5 show where drivers looked. This is scary!

“In addition to looking less at the periphery, drivers using hands-free phones reduced their visual monitoring of instruments and mirrors, and some drivers entirely abandoned those tasks. At intersections, these drivers made fewer glances to traffic lights and to traffic on the right. Some drivers did not even look at traffic signals.” Learn more at nsc.org.

Source: Transport Canada’s Ergonomics Division

The false security of hands-free devices expands to car “infotainment” dashboards as well. In one study, 53% of drivers believe that if manufacturers are adding this feature to our cars as “hands-free technology” then they must be safe. (Source: National Safety Council)

Not true. These infotainment dashboards can steal our attention from the road all too often and arguably just as much as cell phones. It’s up to us to stay vigilant with all these new distractions, and to support our family and friends in being safe as well.

Pressure from Family to Pick Up the Phone

More than 80% of Americans said they felt the most pressure from their families to use phones while driving. Even teen drivers report feeling pressure from families, as well as friends. (Source: NSC public opinion poll)

Cell phone usage is a distraction that now joins alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. Let’s all pledge to not pressure any family or friends to use their cell phone while driving!

There’s Only One Solution

“More than one-third of people admitted to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and more than one-quarter admitted to sending a text or email.” (Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)

Since just reaching for a phone can increase the chances of a wreck by 40 percent, there’s only one solution. We don’t touch our phones while driving.

Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb While Driving.” This will send a text message back to your family and friends (automatically without any assistance from you) alerting them to the fact that you are driving and that you will respond back once you’re parked safely.

Learn how to set up Do Not Disturb While Driving:

Cell Phones & Driving – A Reality Check

You’re not safe just because you’re not texting. We’ve seen countless cases where the driver considered themselves to be a good driver and they weren’t texting. Unfortunately, they were distracted by something else on their phone… thinking that since they weren’t texting they were being safe.

It’s important to understand that we are all part of the problem. You’re not part of the solution until you 100% stop engaging in these distractions while driving. Together we can make our roads safer and we can education our kids to do the same.

Have You Been in a Car Accident?

Have you been in a car crash due to another driver’s negligence? In the last 10 years, an average of 387 people died from injuries received in crashes on Iowa roads and highways. We are personal injury lawyers who represent clients throughout Iowa, including Des Moines, Davenport/Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Sioux City, and Council Bluffs. Learn more about car accident injuries and contact us today for a free consultation.