There are certain venues in which talking on your phone or texting is considered taboo: during a movie, an important meeting, or at a restaurant. Yet while studies have shown that another place ought to be behind the wheel, many Americans are getting the busy signal.
Every day in the U.S., more than 1,100 people are injured in crashes where the driver was distracted, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While distracted driving takes many forms, it’s typically the kind where motorists are interacting with handheld devices.
Despite the daily reports of traffic accidents and auto insurance claims stemming from distracted driving, people continue to do it. In a recent study done by researchers from the University of Southern California, 87 percent acknowledged that sending a text message while driving was unsafe. Still, 18 percent said that they can’t help but use their handheld devices behind the wheel.
Whether they own up to it or not, everyone knows that driving distracted is dangerous. Unfortunately, this acceptance hasn’t led to enough people taking the pledge to stop doing it.
Veering left or right of center
Thanks to yellow and white lines that flank the roads, it’s easy to tell if the car ahead of you is having a problem driving in a straight line. If they’re veering to the left or right, it’s a pretty good indication that they’re not paying attention to the road ahead of them, making it a good idea for you to pull over or put additional space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
One of the biggest dangers associated with distracted driving is that it prevents drivers from slowing down when another applies the brakes. A classic indication of a multitasking motorist is when someone slams on the brakes when a car in front of them stops, seemingly unaware that this person was coming to a stop. Avoiding rear-ending the car in front of you is why you should always have plenty of space between you and other cars.
Lengthy pauses at intersections
Red means stop and green means go, of course, but when drivers are distracted, it may take them several seconds to get moving again after the light changes. If it takes more than a few seconds for them to react to the green light, that may be an indication they’re fiddling with their cell phones or in some other way not paying attention.
Headphones in ears
Drivers who have headphones on may not necessarily be using them, but they’re definitely a telltale sign that they’re multitasking, as it usually involves either changing a song on their phone or dialing a phone number. According to the National Safety Council, voice-to-text devices can be just as dangerous as typing texts manually.
If there’s someone you know who drives distracted, reinforce the importance of why they need to keep all of their attention on the road. Safety officials point out that anyone who’s ever been involved in an accident because of multitasking didn’t think their doing so would lead to a crash. Only a moment’s inattention can be the difference between life and death, as nine people every day are killed in accidents involving driving distracted.
Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia outlaw texting and driving. For more information on the dangers of distracted driving and what laws are in place that prohibit it, visit Distraction.gov.