Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Nevertheless, drivers have largely ignored this research. Studies show that drivers overestimate their own ability to safely multitask, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it.
Distracted driving is more than just using technology when driving. It represents a range of activities that impact a driver’s visual, auditory, physical and cognitive abilities.
In the past 10 years, the development of electronic devices that have the potential for driver distraction have grown significantly. In particular, cell phone usage and texting have become standard practices.
Distracted driving crash estimates vary widely, but a recent Harvard study determined that 570,000 accidents leading to minor and serious injuries are caused each year by cell phone distractions.
Research also has determined that driving while using a cell phone reduces a driver’s response time. Drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers. The likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.
What’s more, a growing body of evidence suggests that drivers who simply involve themselves in a conversation suffer debilitating distractions. Complicated business discussions and emotionally involved conversations reduce driver reaction times and steal away attention.
Hands-free cell phone devices and speaker phone accessories don’t eliminate the risks and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.
Safety professionals recommend that cell phone calls and texting/typing be done while the vehicle is stationary, not while driving.
Let callers leave a message in voicemail, or if there are passengers in the vehicle, let one of them take or make the call, say safety professionals. If a driver has to make or receive a call, the driver should look for a safe opportunity to pull over and park before doing so.
If for some reason, there is no alternative but to use a cell phone while driving, safety professionals offer these tips:
- Get to know your cell phone and its features, such as speed dial and redial.
- When available, use a hands-free device.
- Position your cell phone within easy reach where you can grab it without taking your eyes off of the road.
- Suspend conversations during hazardous driving conditions or situations.
- Do not take notes or look up phone numbers while driving.
- Dial sensibly and assess the traffic. Stay in the right-hand lane, where driving may be less demanding. If possible, place calls when you are not moving or before pulling into traffic.
- Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations. Keep calls short and factual. BI