Most drivers assume that they can multitask when they drive a motor vehicle. They do not believe that distracted driving is dangerous. Sadly, their assumptions about distracted driving could result in fatal crashes or traumatic injuries.
The Zebra conducted a survey to determine how drivers in the United States viewed distracted driving. Some of the responses support the fact that many drivers believe "they" can handle distractions while driving.
For example, 36.4 percent of respondents said they completely agree that using a mobile device hinders a person's ability to drive a vehicle. However, 36 percent admitted to using a cellphone while driving.
Less than one-half of the respondents said that they do not entirely agree that texting and driving is a dangerous as drinking and driving, yet studies have proved otherwise.
The responses to The Zebra survey are additional evidence that drivers do not believe that distracted driving is dangerous.
Distracted Driving Accidents in South Florida
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), distracted driving accidents have increased throughout Florida in recent years. Some of these accidents occurred in South Florida, including in Palm Beach County and Broward County.
The annual reports from FLHSMV provide the following data for distracted driving accidents in Florida:
- 2015 – Fatalities 216/Incapacitating Injuries 3,432
- 2016 - Fatalities 241/Incapacitating Injuries 3,500
- 2017 - Fatalities 234/Incapacitating Injuries 3,096
- 2018 - Fatalities 236/Incapacitating Injuries 3,100
- 2019 - Fatalities 266/Incapacitating Injuries 2,929
For the most part, crashes involving distracted drivers that resulted in deaths or permanent impairments appear to be increasing in Florida.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has similar numbers for motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Nationwide, distracted-affected crashes increased each year between 2015 and 2018. The number of distracted driving accidents in the United States in 2018 was 938,000.
The numbers are enlightening, but what is more important is the fact that drivers continue to engage in numerous types of distractions while driving a motor vehicle.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The simplest definition of distracted driving is engaging in any activity that takes your attention away from driving.
The Centers for Disease Control list the three types of distracted driving as:
- Visual – Taking your eyes off the road while driving
- Manual – Taking your hands off the wheel while driving
- Cognitive – Taking your mind off driving while operating a motor vehicle
Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Texting involves all three types of distractions. You take your mind off driving to pay attention to texting, your hands are off the steering wheel, and your eyes are not on the road.
Florida's distracted driving laws ban texting while driving. The law became effective on July 1, 2019. Florida bans using a wireless communication device in a handheld matter in work zones and school zones.
However, texting and driving is not the only form of distracted driving. There are many activities that a driver may attempt to do while driving that could result in a distracted driving accident.
Examples of Distracted Driving
Any of the above three distractions can cause car crashes.
Examples of things that a driver should not do while operating a motor vehicle include:
- Texting or emailing
- Using a cell phone, even a hands-free cell phone
- Using any electronic device, including programming a GPS
- Eating or drinking
- Changing clothing or grooming
- Adjusting vehicle controls
- Interacting with passengers in the vehicle
- Daydreaming and paying too much attention to the things on the side of the road
- Reaching for falling objects
- Making or watching videos
The list of potential distracted driving examples is far too long to include in this article. Remember, anything that takes your focus away from driving is a potentially deadly distraction.
The Consequences of Being Distracted While Driving
The least severe consequence is that you could be pulled over and issued a traffic ticket for some types of distracted driving. The worst consequence is that you cause your death or the death of another person.
Distracted driving traffic accidents can result in wrongful death and catastrophic injuries.
Injuries caused by distracted drivers include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Paralysis and spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Amputations and loss of limbs
- Back and neck injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Chest injuries
Some victims of distracted driving crashes heal from their injuries and return to their regular routines. Other victims are not that fortunate. They sustain permanent impairments because of their injuries. They may never walk, work, or enjoy life the way they did before a distracted driver slammed into their vehicle.
Teenagers and Distracted Driving
It is estimated that about nine percent of teenagers who die because of a motor vehicle crash die in accidents involving a distracted driver. The driver's age can have an impact on his risk for a distracted driving accident. Teen drivers between 15 and 19 years were more likely to be distracted in accidents involving a fatality than drivers 20 years or older.
A study analyzing youth risk behavior found 39 percent of high school students texted or emailed while driving at least once in the past 30 days. Furthermore, students who emailed or texted while driving were more likely to report other risky driving behaviors. The students reported they were more likely to drink and drive, ride with a drunk driver, or skip wearing a seat belt.
Can We Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents?
Car accidents are going to happen. A driver makes a mistake or error that might not be intentional, but it results in negligence that causes a car crash. However, we can significantly reduce the number of distracted driving accidents.
Driving while distracted is a choice. Drivers can also choose to avoid distractions while driving. They can pull over to a safe location if they must engage in an activity that takes their focus away from driving.
If everyone would make a conscious effort to avoid distractions while driving, thousands of lives could be saved each year.