If you spend much time on the road commuting for work or school or traveling for vacation, you have likely witnessed what many consider a growing safety hazard. A growing number of the drivers sharing today’s roads are guilty of “distracted driving”.
Drivers that seem lost in deep conversation on their cell phones or even worse, those that look away from the road completely to send or receive text messages are clearly not giving full attention to operating their vehicle safely. These drivers have a difficult time staying in their lane, maintaining a suitable speed, reacting to changes in traffic and following instructions on the posted road signs. The hazards they create for attentive drivers are numerous.
The tragic stories about motor vehicle accidents, even fatality collisions, are all too common. Everyone has heard of a teenager crossing the centerline of a non-divided roadway or leaving the road on the right and striking a stationary object. These two categories of collision create the most traumatic injuries as they involve the most extreme forces.
Distracted drivers are often unaware of changes in the roadway or traffic pattern due to a lack of proper attention to the signs that warn of potential danger ahead. Speed zones, merging traffic and lane closures are examples of hazardous conditions that are made much safer when drivers pay proper attention to the posted warnings.
According to a recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, nearly 80% of all crashes involved some form of driver distraction or inattention 3 seconds or less before the event.
Texting while driving is the worst possible combination of distractions. The VT study found that over a 6 second span, the “eyes-off-road” time was as high as 4.6 seconds. That equates to driving the length of a football field blind when traveling at only 55 miles per hour.
Imagine driving down the highway at the posted speed limit and willfully closing your eyes for nearly 5 seconds. Ignoring the inconvenience of missing the sign for your exit, the other road signs that are missed could lead to a serious accident. A sudden lane closure, detour or speed change can easily trigger a multi-vehicle accident if drivers are not giving proper attention to the road signs. The collision possibilities are virtually endless yet drivers, teenage drivers especially, do this on a routine basis when texting and driving.
As these behaviors have become more prevalent, many cities and states have imposed new laws to restrict cell phone use and other causes of distracted driving. Regulatory signs with messages such as “School Zone: Cell Phone Use Prohibited” are common sightings. New laws shouldn’t be necessary, however, as existing traffic laws typically include penalties for inattentive driving habits. Failure to maintain a lane, obey speed limits and comply with warning signs are examples of existing laws designed to prevent this type of activity.
No matter the solution, it is clear that responsible drivers must take a more defensive stance while on the road. Only by consciously preparing for the worst can safe drivers navigate the dangers on today’s road. Increasing your follow distance, reducing speed and focusing more on those driving beside us will help avoid problems before they happen.
When you are on the road, please keep in mind that operating a vehicle on a crowded road is inherently dangerous even though we are accustomed to this as part of our daily lives.
Please focus on safety first. Text messages and phone calls should never be a part of your behind-the-wheel behavior.