The car is supposed to be the place where you concentrate on safely getting from place to place. Increasingly, though, a number of technological and other diversions can distract you from the task at hand. Distracted driving is leading to more and more serious and even deadly car accidents in South Carolina and across the country.
More than eight people die and 1,161 people are injured each day in distracted driving car accidents, according to the federal government’s website Distraction.gov. In 2013, 3,154 people died and 424,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents – that’s one death every 2.8 hours and 48 injuries per hour.
Types of Distractions
Distractions are everywhere. The three primary types of driver distractions are:
- Visual – Visual distractions consist of anything that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road. Such distractions include adjusting the radio or navigation system, looking at passengers in the back seat or looking at something outside the car, such as someone on the sidewalk.
- Manual – This type of distraction involves anything that makes the driver take his or her hands off the steering wheel. This includes talking or texting on a handheld cellphone, eating or drinking, or reaching for an object dropped in the car.
- Cognitive – When the driver’s mind is taken away from the task of driving and the surrounding traffic, it constitutes a cognitive distraction. Examples include talking on a hands-free device, daydreaming, talking to a passenger, getting absorbed in the radio or other music or trying to figure out where you are going.
The worst distractions are those that combine all three types – visual, manual and cognitive. Texting while driving is one example, because your eyes are on the phone instead of the road, your hands are on the phone instead of the steering wheel and you’re thinking about the message instead of driving. It’s a dangerous combination, not to mention illegal for all drivers in South Carolina.
Statistics reported by Distraction.gov show that engaging in visual-manual tasks involving portable devices, such as texting or reaching for and dialing a phone, increase the risk of getting into an accident by three times. The Federal Communications Commission reports that texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.
The bottom line is that avoiding distractions, along with paying careful attention to the task of driving, is the best way to avoid an accident.
Common Driver Distractions
Common driver distractions include:
Talking on a cellphone.
Many people think they can drive while holding a cellphone but it’s one of the most common distractions that lead to accidents.
Talking on a hands-free device.
Bluetooth and other technology has allowed for hands-free phone use, but it is almost as much of a risk as using a handheld phone. Even if your hand isn’t on the phone, your eyes are on the system operating the phone and your cognitive functions are focused on the conversation rather than driving.
This is one of the most dangerous distractions. Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for five seconds on average. If you’re driving at 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of football field with your eyes closed.
Programming a navigation system.
Entering a destination into the navigation system can take several steps, and your eyes are off the road the entire time and you’re focused on that instead of the road. It’s best to put the address in before you start to drive.
Adjusting the radio or other entertainment system.
Taking your eyes off the road to change the radio station, put in a DVD for the kids or pull up a playlist puts you and others on the road at risk, even though car manufacturers have tried to minimize the distractions of these so-called infotainment systems.
Eating while driving.
Even though lots of people eat while driving, whether after going through the drive-thru or bringing breakfast from home, it causes you to multitask rather than pay attention to just driving. Eating is a manual and visual distraction that’s just not worth the risk.
Applying makeup, shaving and combing hair are examples of grooming people do while behind the wheel. Even if you start while stopped at a light, it’s not usually enough time to finish grooming. These tasks often take your eyes and hands away from driving tasks, creating a danger.
Talking to a passenger.
When a driver talks to someone else in the car, their focus can be on the conversation rather than driving, making for a serious distraction.
Reaching for an object in the car.
When you look for and reach for something in your car, you take your eyes off the road. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, it’s a few seconds that you aren’t paying attention to driving – and a lot can happen in traffic during that short time.
Looking at something outside.
It’s important to keep your eyes on the road. When, for example, you look at a car accident or someone or something on the sidewalk, even for a few seconds, you can get into an accident.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver?
If you have been in a car accident in South Carolina and you think a distracted driver caused the crash, it’s important to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to review and investigate the accident, advise you about your rights and evaluate any evidence of driver distraction, helping you get the justice you deserve.