Fighting Distracted Driving: How to Stay Safe

We’ve all seen it, and perhaps even done it: Looked at the cell phone while driving.

Person Driving a CarDistracted driving isn’t just texting – it’s any activity that takes your attention away from driving. This includes using a cell phone to call or text while driving, changing a CD or grabbing something from the floorboard. Distracted driving makes you more likely to get into a crash.

As a result, many states have enacted laws to help stop the practice. You can avoid distracted driving by learning how to stay safe in the car.

The Dangers of Talking on the Phone While Driving

You are four times more likely to get into a car crash if you are talking on a cell phone. That is the same risk as driving drunk. Reaching for the phone, dialing it and talking all take your attention away from driving.

Even hands-free phones are not that safe. When drivers use hands-free phones, they do not see or hear things that can help them avoid a crash. This includes stop signs, red lights, and pedestrians. About 25% of all car crashes involve cell phone use, including hands-free phones.

Talking to other people in the car is less risky than talking on a phone. A passenger can see traffic problems ahead and stop talking. They also provide another set of eyes to spot and point out traffic hazards.

Texting and Driving: Even More Dangerous

Texting while driving is riskier than talking on a phone. Typing on the phone takes more of your attention than other distractions. Even talking into the phone to send a text message (voice-to-text) is not safe.

When you text, your eyes are off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 mph, a car travels half the length of a football field in 5 seconds. A lot can happen in that short amount of time.

Who is at Risk

Distracted driving is a problem among people of all ages. But teens and young adults are at the highest risk.

Most teens and young people say they have written, sent, or read texts while driving. Younger inexperienced drivers have the highest number of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving. If you are a parent, teach your child about the dangers of talking and texting while driving.

How to Stop Distracted Driving

Use these tips to steer clear of distractions while driving:

  • DO NOT multitask. Before you turn on your car, finish eating, drinking, and grooming. Program your audio and navigation systems before you start to drive.
  • When you get in the driver’s seat, turn off your phone and place it out of reach. If you are caught using a phone while driving, you may risk a ticket or fine. Most states have banned texting while driving for people of all ages. Some have also banned the use of handheld phones while driving. Learn about the laws in your state at: www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/state-laws.html.
  • Download an app that locks the phone. These apps work by blocking features like texting and calling while the car is moving over a set speed limit. Most are controlled remotely through a website and charge a monthly or yearly fee. You can also buy systems that plug into the car’s computer or are placed on the windshield that limit cell phone use while the car is moving.
  • Pledge not to use your cell phone while driving. Sign the National Highway Safety Administration’s pledge at www.distraction.gov/take-action/take-the-pledge.html. It also includes a promise to speak out if the driver in your car is distracted and to encourage friends and family to drive phone-free.

Source: St. Bernards Health Library

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