Distracted driving is no joke. The National Highway Transportation estimates that more than 3,000 people are killed each year by distracted drivers.
The Center for Disease Control lists three types of driver distraction:
- Visual, which takes your eyes off the road,
- Manual, which takes your hands off the wheel, and
- Cognitive, which take your mind off mind off the road.
Across all age demographics, drivers under 20 are most likely to have distraction-related fatal crashes. Parents and teachers should discuss and model responsible driving with their children and students.
Using a Smartphone While Driving
Smartphones have been a major issue of contention with drivers since they started becoming popular. They fall under all three CDC categories for types of driver distraction: visual, because you take your eyes off the road to read the screen, manual, because you take your hands off the wheel, and cognitive, because reading texts, looking at maps, or even talking can take your mind off the road.
The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that distracted driving due to smartphone use is on the rise. In 2018, distracted driving due to electronic devices was 4.52%, up from 3.58% in January 2017.
Related article: Texting, Talking on Cell Phone the Top Cause of Driver Distraction
To combat this risk, California state law prohibits drivers from using cell phones to text, call, or use apps, including maps, while driving. Drivers may attach their cell phone to the windshield or dashboard, and may use phones if they are voice-activated, hands-free, or can be used with a single swipe or single touch. This set up eliminates the visual distraction, by keeping the phone as close to the road as possible, as well as the manual distraction, by letting drivers keep their hands on the wheel.
If you want to further reduce your risk of distracted driving, plot your route ahead of time. Know which exit to use, and, if possible, ask your passengers to assist with navigation.
The Morning Routine: Eating Breakfast, Drinking Coffee, and Personal Grooming
Another major cause of distracted driving comes from using your morning commute to get ready for work. This could involve eating breakfast, sipping coffee, applying makeup, or even shaving.
Each of these activities involve manual distraction – taking your hands off the wheel – and, to some extent, visual distraction – taking your eyes off the road. Even if you are just sipping from your coffee mug, at least one hand is off the wheel. If you put the cup down and pick it up again, you might also be taking your eyes off the road.
Personal grooming in the car, especially if you are carefully applying makeup, can be more dangerous, because your eyes are off the road for a longer period of time. You also may have a greater cognitive distraction from concentration on the makeup or mirror, rather than the road.
Some may argue that some of these distractions are unavoidable – after all, drivers who have long commutes often use food or beverages to keep them alert and awake, especially after a long day at work.
It's best to avoid these distractions to the extent you can. It's worth waking up a few minutes earlier to make sure that you have time to shave or eat a power bar before you get behind the wheel.
Finally, fatigue or drowsy driving can cause distracted driving. People most likely to be affected by fatigue when driving are:
- Truck drivers, bus drivers, tow truck drivers, or other people whose job mainly consists of sitting behind the wheel,
- People who work overnight or graveyard shifts coming home from their jobs, and
- Drivers younger than 25.
Fatigue can affect drivers in the same way that alcohol does. Both can reduce reaction time, leading to delayed braking, running lights or stop signs, or not being able to swerve in an emergency. Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel are also likely to run off the road or into another lane of traffic.
Drivers can minimize the possibility of being affected by fatigue by making sure they get enough sleep in their regular sleep schedule. Long-haul drivers should also take regular breaks to eat, stretch and nap.
Driving with passengers can also reduce the effects of drowsy driving. They can help keep you awake by engaging in non-distractive conversation and can even take shifts at the wheel, to help keep you awake and refreshed.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney for Help
Although smartphone technology and our commutes have changed, the personal care and service we've provided over the last 50 years in our community have not. Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman are dedicated to ensuring that victims of distracted drivers have the best legal representation available. Please contact us by calling (707) 575-7141 to set up an initial consultation today.