As a society we have a habit of micromanaging our time down the last minute. As a result some of us use our commute as extra minutes in the day in which to get things done. However, before we engage in any activity that can distract our focus we should consider the danger that we are putting our passengers, fellow drivers, and ourselves in.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offers this message on the official US Government website for Distracted Driving:
“Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road- even for just a few seconds- they put their lives and the lives of others in danger. Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there are 3 ways in which an individual can be distracted while behind the wheel: visually, manually, and cognitively.
Drivers can distract themselves visually by taking their eyes of the road to do such activities as reading (including maps), using a GPS or navigation system and by watching a video.
Manual distractions include a driver’s tendency to take their hands off the wheel to eat, drink or change a radio station, CD or MPS Player.
Individuals may be cognitively distracted if they have taken their mind off of the task at hand. They may be talking to passengers, talking on a cell phone, or paying attention to a pet that is traveling with them. Texting is one of the most dangerous activities a driver can engage in because it involves all 3 ways of possible distraction.
A study done by The University of Utah found that using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands free, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
In recent years many states, including Massachusetts, have begun filing legislature limiting or eliminating the use of cell phones while driving.
Recently the US D.O.T. released a statement that new research shows increased enforcement has led to cuts in distracted driving. Pilot Programs in Syracuse, NY and Hartford, CT have significantly curbed texting and cell phone use behind the wheel.
In Syracuse, NY both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by one-third. While in Hartford, Connecticut there was a 57 percent drop in handheld use and texting behind the wheel dropped by nearly three-quarters.
“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”
While distracted driving is not yet a thing of the past, it seems that improvements are being made to lessen this rampant problem.