Mark Reynolds & Associates

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Address:

15050 Avenue of Science
San Diego, CA 92128

Phone:

800.233.2834

Fax/Other:

858.674.2465

Eyes on the Road: Guard Against Distracted Driving

Cell phones are a great invention, but they can be deadly when used behind the wheel. Consider this: Sending or reading a short text takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.1 Taking your hand off the wheel to hold a cell phone to your ear isn't much better.

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Fighting a Fatal Battle

Improved safety features, greater seat belt use, and a lower incidence of driving while impaired all contributed to a decade of decline in traffic fatalities from 2005 to 2014.2 Unfortunately, the trend reversed direction dramatically in 2015 and 2016 with a 14.4% increase over the two-year period. Preliminary data for the first half of 2017 shows a very slight decrease of 0.6%, not enough to encourage optimism.3

There may be a variety of reasons for more deaths on the road, but cell phone use and other distracted behavior are clearly a big part of the problem. In 2015 (most recent data available), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that 10% of fatal accidents and 15% of injury accidents were caused by distracted driving. That year, almost 4% of drivers talked on their cell phones while driving and more than 2% sent texts or otherwise manipulated electronic devices, such as searching for directions.4

Laws and Common Sense

Many states have enacted laws banning texting and handheld cell phone use while driving. But legal or not, any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your mind off the task, and/or your hands off the steering wheel is a distraction.

Some distracted drivers are overconfident in their ability to multitask, while others are simply daydreaming or lost in thought. Either way, it's important to use common sense and be aware of behaviors that could affect your driving performance.

Wait to Talk or Text

Drivers who are placing or answering calls, or having a conversation, tend to be less focused on potential hazards. Hands-free devices are mandated for drivers in some states, but their use does not always eliminate the distraction. It's safest to make your calls before you drive. If your phone rings while you are driving, let voicemail pick it up.

The risk of texting while driving should be obvious. It may be tempting to send a quick text while at a red light, but is it worth endangering yourself, your passengers, and others on the road? The answer should always be no.

Young drivers ages 16 to 24 are most likely to use hand-held cell phones while driving, so it's important to discuss the risks with any young drivers in your family.5

Life in the Car

People and animals are sometimes the most difficult distractions to control but simply turning around to talk to passengers could be a deadly mistake.

It's not easy to explain to young children that driving demands your full attention, but it's worth a try. Diversions such as books, games, and toys may also help. If a situation involving a child passenger becomes a distraction, it's best to pull over to a safe spot. Pets should always be secured in a pet carrier or harness device and never be allowed to roam freely in the car or sit on your lap.

As normal or necessary as it may seem, fiddling with a navigation system, music player, or climate controls can take your attention away from the road long enough to create a hazardous situation. It's best to delegate these jobs to a passenger or wait until the car is stopped to make adjustments.

Eating or drinking while driving a vehicle presents another set of challenges. When your hands are off the wheel and your mind is otherwise occupied — such as when opening or unwrapping, reaching or leaning, spilling and wiping — the likelihood of an accident increases. For the same reason, grooming tasks such as applying makeup, styling hair, and shaving should never be done while driving, even if you are late for work.

Driving demands a high level of mind and body coordination to control your vehicle and respond appropriately to hazards on the road. Concentrating on the task at hand and reducing distractions may help you and your passengers arrive safely at your destination.