April Is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month: What Do You Need to Know?

Look around you. At any given moment of the day, according to NOPUS (National Occupant Protection Use Survey), around 668,000 drivers are chatting on their cell phones or using electronic devices while driving.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has done a ton of cutting-edge research on the relationship between cell phone use and driving. VTTI studies show that using a handheld phone or other portable electronic device can increase the risk of a crash by three times. In the amount of time it takes for a driver to receive and/or send a text – roughly 4.6 seconds – a driver traveling at normal highway speeds will drive the length of a whole football field, while effectively blind because of the distraction.

Even more alarmingly, VTTI studies have found that the use of hands-free headsets do not confer a major safety advantage. In other words, it’s basically just as dangerous to drive with a cell phone held up to your ear as it is to talk via a hands-free headset. Why? Researchers believe that the act of focusing on a distant conversation, in and of itself, fundamentally causes the distraction. In other words, whether you hold a phone up to your ear or talk into a headset doesn’t really matter. What matters is where your concentration is.

Cell phones and electronic gadgets are not the only causes of distracted driving. Other common distracters include:

  • Loud music;
  • Loud conversations with other passengers;
  • Eating or drinking;
  • Attending to animals in the car;
  • Changing radio stations;
  • Powerful emotions, such as anger, frustration, or even elation/enthusiasm.

Basically, anything that takes your mind off the task at hand (driving safely) can, at least theoretically, increase your risk of getting into a crash. So what can you do?

The National Safety Council (NSC) offers the following sound advice:

  • Refrain from using your cell phone while behind the wheel;
  • Understand that hands-free devices do not confer safety benefits;
  • Understand what cognitive distraction can do to the brain, and take steps to avoid distraction;
  • Spread the word to other people about the dangers of distracted driving, as this will not only help other people but will also cement the lessons in your own mind.

For infographics about this topic, head to www.nsc.org, where you can also pledge to drive cell free. Connect with our legal team for a free consultation about your recent distracted driving accident.

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