Most people know the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Public safety initiatives and nation-wide programs discourage drunk driving while state laws enact strict administrative and criminal penalties for offenders. Yet, many people do not realize that driving while distracted can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
It all comes down to what happens when a motorist becomes distracted. In most cases, the driver takes his or her eyes off the road, whether to look down at a text message or while turning around to grab something from the backseat. At highway speeds of 65 mph, this means a motorist who looks away for even just five seconds could travel nearly 500 feet—without having their eyes on the road. That's a distance of about a football field and a half.
Distracted Driving Statistics Reveal a Disturbing Trend
While drunk driving statistics remain high, accounting for approximately 24% of all fatal crashes in Oklahoma in 2016, distracted driving is one of the biggest threats to Oklahoma motorists. According to (at the time) preliminary data compiled in the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office’s 2018 Annual Report, there were approximately 1,204 motorists who were seriously injured in accidents in which distracted driving was a factor in 2018. Sadly, the same report revealed that younger drivers, those between the ages of 16 and 24, were far more likely to be injured or killed in distracted driving accidents than their older counterparts.
Even more shockingly, statistics compiled in the Oklahoma Highway Safety Plan FY 2020 revealed that the top three contributing factors in injury and fatality accidents in the state in 2016 were, in order:
- Failure to yield
In other words, driving inattention, or distracted driving, was one of the most common causes of car accidents resulting in injuries and/or fatalities.
Distracted Driving Takes Many Forms
Despite the dangers of distracted driving, the problem continues to be widespread. State laws prohibiting the use of a handheld electronic communications device while driving have not stopped people from continuing to text, answer calls, take pictures/videos, and post to social media while operating their vehicles. And, while cell phone use while driving is one of the most common examples of distracted driving, it’s not the only one.
In fact, distracted driving can take several forms:
- Manual Distractions: A motorist is manually distracted whenever they remove their hands from the steering wheel, including when they use their hands to eat, text, etc.
- Visual Distractions: When a driver takes their eyes off the road—whether to glance at a cell phone, change the radio station, or look at a passenger—they are visually distracted.
- Auditory Distractions: If a driver is distracted by sounds not related to driving, such as loud music or a passenger talking, they are less likely to pay attention to the task at hand.
- Cognitive Distractions: Simply failing to pay attention as a result of daydreaming or thinking about something other than driving can be a serious distraction.
How to Stay Safe
The more we drive, the more comfortable we get behind the wheel. It can be easy to feel like responding to a text at a stoplight or eating fast food while traveling on the highway is no big deal. But the fact remains: driving is serious business. When you drive, you are responsible for controlling a large, heavy, fast-moving vehicle. Your passengers and all other motorists on the road depend on you to be reasonably safe, follow all traffic laws, and refrain from distracting behaviors while behind the wheel.
The best way to ensure your own safety and the safety of others is to put the cell phone down, avoid other distractions, and focus on the task at hand. If you see another motorist who appears to be distracted—signs of a distracted driver often include “drifting” across lanes, over-correcting/jerky car movements, unexplained braking/stopping, and failure to stop at red lights/stop signs or go when lights turn green—steer clear. Give the suspected distracted driver a wide berth and remain alert. Remember, you safety and the safety of others is the most important thing; everything else can wait!
If you are involved in an accident, including those caused by distracted driving, we can help. Contact Aizenman Law Group for a free case evaluation today.