April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in an effort to reduce car accidents and injuries on Tennessee roads. Stillman and Friedland are asking you—have you been reducing distractions while driving? Since so many of us spend hours on the road daily and weekly, we get comfortable using the car as an extension of our living space. However, unlike time at home or in the office, driving requires constant concentration. An AAA poll indicated that these days 80% of drivers feel endangered on the road by others who are driving distracted. This fear has risen with increased use of cell phones. The most distracted and vulnerable are inexperienced teen drivers, who have the highest likelihood of texting and driving.
A study cited by the AAA notes that when switching attention from a non-driving activity back to the road, the “latency” phase may be as long as 27 seconds. What that means is that the driver has effectively relinquished his or her chance to react and avoid an accident. If you are traveling at just 30 mph, you can travel nearly 400 yards in that time. At freeway speeds around 60 mph, the distance is doubled, and a 15-second latency period has about the same effect as that nearly 30 seconds at the slower speed. Those lost seconds represent more than enough time and space to cause an accident. Most accidents happen in much less time—think of an instance in which swerving or braking suddenly kept you from rear-ending the car in front of you. You probably reacted in under 5 seconds.
While phones are major culprits for younger age groups, other behaviors are just as dangerous. Think about these as “non-driving activities”, because anything that you do that is not “just driving” means that the driver is, in effect, absent. As you can imagine, we see many cases where not having those crucial few seconds to react may cause death or months of pain and injury to oneself and others, and may result in criminal charges as well as costs and court time for the negligent defendant.
Have a look at activities that can be deadly and destructive while driving, and see if you need to change your habits:
All three types of distractions take your focus away from the road. Many non-driving activities involve a combination of different types of distractions. Notice that texting has all three types of distraction, which is why it is so problematic. Shaving or putting on make-up involves both manual and visual distractions. Eating, adjusting your radio or music, and reaching for items in the car take away from your manual operation of the car as well as your visual focus.
Waze and GPS are great for getting you to your destination, but if you keep looking at the device you might not “arrive alive”. Set the device and acquaint yourself with your route before you get going, and follow the voice commands instead of reading the map while driving.
Don’t forget that people are also distracting. Trying to deal with kids acting up is both a visual and a cognitive diversion when you look to see what is going on, and get stressed dealing with squabbles. For teens, fewer passengers in the car mean fewer accidents. Never let your teenager play chauffeur for more than one friend at a time. Statistics consistently show that the more kids there are in the car, the higher the chance that an accident will occur.
The old adage “keep both hands on the wheel” is good advice to keep you in “just driving” mode. Remember that when you are behind the wheel, other activities can wait until you arrive at your destination. Save multi-tasking for when you are not driving. Delegating communications to a passenger is another option.
As personal injury attorneys, our business is helping those who are suffering because of others’ failure to focus on driving safely and responsibly. We urge you to look out for yourself and others not only during April, but all year round.
Because we care…
Stillman and Friedland
Tennessee Accident Attorneys