Distracted driving has been a buzzword since the penchant for constant communication took hold. The CDC claims that nine people are killed daily due to distracted driving. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, in 2016, distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,450 people (9.2 percent of all fatalities), and the majority of distracted driving goes unreported. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 80% of accidents and 16% of highway deaths are the result of distracted drivers.
The statistics are endless, the messages to focus on driving are everywhere, and yet, people continue to drive distracted.
How much do you know about distracted driving? I am fortunate to work closely with End Distracted Driving, a program created by Joel Feldman who tragically lost his daughter to a distracted driver. Through this program I have given talks at high schools, especially to sophomores who are going through driver’s education, about the risks of driving distracted. I have also presented at the Virginia’s Juvenile Driver’s License Ceremony, giving a presentation to new drivers and their parents on the topic. Many of the students and parents come up to me afterwards explaining their ignorance on the topic and promising to never drive with phone in hand again. This is comforting, but with the abundance of information out there, it is disconcerting to hear that it is not being driven home (pun intended). This series will focus on topics of distracted driving, myths, and false assumptions in the hope to spread more information in a more digestible and palpable manner.
To begin, what is distracted driving?
Driving while on the phone is usually the easiest and first response to this question. However, distracted driving goes well beyond just phone usage. Distracted driving could be:
- changing the radio station
- fixing the temperature
- checking out the dog in the car next to you
- rummaging for something in your purse, bag, glove compartment, center consul, passenger seat
- messing with the GPS
- breaking up a fight between your children in the backseat
Literally anything that breaks your concentration or focus on the road is distracted driving. It’s not rocket science, but it is difficult to not drive distracted when our society is based on doing things efficiently (i.e. multitasking) and instant gratification. Every single person who has driven, has driven distracted at least once. But, the issue is not only that we do it, but that we accept and justify it. I need to get this email to my boss and I can’t pull over or I’ll be late for work. I need to get somewhere, and I need to eat. Our priorities can be skewed.
This is not a witch hunt against changing the car temperature or changing the radio, but it is a reminder that each of those actions breaks concentration and puts you and others at risk. Start by putting away the phones and other electronics. Those are constant distractions and they take up a lot of time. Then focus on your other distractions, try to set your car temp and music before exiting the driveway or parking lot. Do anything before you physically put the car in drive or reverse so that you don’t have to change it later. These small actions can save lives, as the road is a pretty random and unpredictable place.
Think of ways to reduce your distractions and drive more safely. Think of the below graphic when driving, and know that it can wait, whatever it is.
A graduate of George Washington University of National Law Center, Thomas J. Curcio is an author, speaker, and personal injury attorney. He has been named one of DC Best Lawyers Personal Injury Litigation and co-author of “Evidence for the Trial Lawyer." His experience includes the successful representation of injured passengers of the 2009 WMATA (DC Metro) Fort Trotten train crash.