Common causes of road traffic crashes, related injuries and sometimes death are alcohol, lack of caution, adherence to restrictions and the refusal of commuters to wear seat belts. In recent times, however, distracted driving surfaced as a road safety concern. Distracted driving is an epidemic that seems to plague American roads. According to VA Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving can be likened to driving blindfolded for about 5 seconds. In 5 seconds, a lot of bad things can happen and one of them is a crash. Car crashes are a worldwide problem. As at 2013, they accounted for over 1.3 million deaths yearly.
What is distracted driving?
As we are well aware, driving is an activity that requires one's full attention at all times. Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver's mind off the road. In some cases, this leads to fatal crashes in which lives are lost and people sustain injuries. Such crashes are referred to as distraction-affected crashes if the driver was discovered or confirmed to have been distracted at the time the crash occurred.
Technology is a major contributing factor to distracted driving. One common source of distraction for drivers is cell phones. When the phone rings, picking it up becomes a priority for the driver, at the expense of his safety. The lack of sense of responsibility on the part of the drivers is another factor.
Cell phone use, a menace on the road
Just like driving, taking a call, checking emails, dialing numbers and texting are activities that require a considerable amount of concentration. A lot of people like to believe that they can multitask but multitasking involves putting a lot of thought into whatever combination of activities one is engaged in. Let's take a multitasking activity like reading and taking a call for example; it is nearly impossible to concentrate on the call or on the book you are reading. One has to give way for the other to be done effectively, it's either you put down the book to concentrate on the call or drop the call to concentrate on the book.
Therefore, combining texting and driving, two activities that require undivided attention, the brain becomes unable to do either one of them effectively. When a driver is engaged in both activities at the same time, he/she may fail to see the traffic signal and therefore not be able to stop quick enough to prevent a crash with another vehicle (who may or may not engage in texting while driving). Another possible implication of texting while driving is delayed breaking time of the vehicle.
When drivers are not focused behind the wheel, not only do they put themselves in danger but they also put other road users in danger, not to mention pedestrians who could also be victims if a crash were to occur.
How harmful is texting while driving?
Of course, texting is a dangerous thing to do while driving. We know this for sure but do we have any idea the level of harm texting and driving actually causes? First and foremost, texting while driving is under-reported. What that means is that unlike the alcohol test given to drivers who are suspected of drunk driving, the case is far more complex for drivers who text and drive. It is very easy for a driver to deny ever using his/her phone to text at a car crash site. Therefore, the data gathered on texting while driving doesn't actually reflect the exact number as just those who admitted or against whom evidence was found. According to the United States department of Transportation, 3,154 people were killed on American roads in distraction-related car crashes. It referred to distracted driving as an epidemic on American roads.
Statistics for distracted driving
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 revealed that the U.S has 84% of distracted driving related fatalities which were grouped under the general classification of carelessness or inattentiveness while behind the wheel.
In 2010, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 80% of collisions as well as 65% of near-crash cases had one form of inattention or the other as contributing factor.
A research study carried out by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in 2010 shows that drivers who engage in text messaging on a cellular phone were 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash or be near crash event compared to non-distracted drivers.
Alberta Transport in 2011 revealed that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Annually in North America, approximately 4 million vehicle crashes have distracted driving as one of the contributing factors.
According to the Government of Canada, traffic collision-related health care cost and lost productivity 's equate to 1% (which is no less than $10 billion) of its GDP.
In the same vein, British Columbia (RCMP) recorded 104 collision fatalities in 2010, a contributing factor – distracted driving.
On the international scene, researches have shown that 20% to 30% of the total collisions involve distracted drivers.
Distracted driving slows down break reaction speed by 18% says HumanFactors and Ergonomics Society
Statistics from the United States Department of Transportation show that 3,154 people died in 2013 in crashes caused by distracted driving.
Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident compared to driving when intoxicated.
Texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents annually
From the Harvard Centre For Risk Analysis Study comes this statistic – texting while driving causes 330,000 injuries yearly
Nearly 25% of all car accidents are caused by texting while driving
All these statistics are clear indications that distracted driving is a dangerous practice that requires more sensitization and awareness with the aim of curbing the menace. Stringent laws and regulations should be put in place and thoroughly enforced to discourage this problem.
It is not uncommon to see an American teenager driving with a cell phone either texting or receiving a call. Responsible driving is driving with the safety of other road users, bystanders and even yourself in mind. If the highly destructive problem of distracted driving (in whatever form it presents itself) will be curbed, then the habit of responsible driving should be embraced by drivers across all demographics. Teenagers are a special set of drivers that need extra supervision or training on the dangers of distracted driving. This is because they are at greater risk of getting into car crashes.
Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts reveals that 11 teen deaths every day have texting while driving as its cause. Texting while driving is the number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers. What's more? Texting is the most commonly used means of communication among teens. Vice President and General Manager – Heavy Duty Engine Business, Ed Pence noted in 2012 during a Teen Driver Safety Rally in Columbus that crashes are the leading cause of deaths of teens in the U.S. this makes it expedient to get teens in high schools involved in preventive measures aimed at curbing distracted driving.
Current laws against texting while driving
In 2009, President Barak Obama signed an Executive Order which banned 4.5 million employees (federal government staff as well as the military) from texting while driving. Contractors and others who do business with the federal government were also encouraged to follow suit. The Government of the United States of America has put on ground certain laws to curb the menace of distracted driving – texting while driving. The U.S Department of Transport is one of the bodies on the forefront to put a stop to distracted driving most especially texting and use of cell phones behind the wheel. The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), a federal safety board called for the nationwide ban of cell phone use and other texting mobile devices while driving.
Some states in the U.S have actually taken it up by effecting a ban of hand-held mobile phone devices while driving. For instance, in Alabama, there is a ban on the use of cell phones (both hand held and hands-free) for novice drivers (referring to drivers who are 16 or 17 years old) who have just received intermediate licences which are less than 6 months. There is also a ban on texting for drivers of all ages. Some States even include cell phone details on crash documents as a means of keeping tabs on texting.
In Alaska, there is a primary law banning texting for all drivers regardless of the age. As for Arizona school bus drivers, there is a ban on both handheld and hands-free mobile devices. Drivers of all ages in California are banned from using their cell phones whether hands-free or hand held. California has a law that bans drivers of all ages from using hand-held devices or texting while driving. In addition to this, bus drivers and novice drivers (18 years and below) are banned from using both hand-held and hands-free cell phones and mobile devices. Several other states in the U.S have laws ranging from bans on the use of hand-held and hands-free devices for drivers of all ages to ban on texting for drivers of all ages.
Most poor or third world countries still grapple with the problem of distracted driving whereas the richer countries are coming up with new and improved ways to handle the problem with the mind of eliminating it in the long run. For instance, Sweden has found an effective way to reduce their annual deaths resulting from road crashes. With adequate planning playing the largest role the country focused more on the construction of roads with safety as a paramount factor rather than convenience and speed. They've been able to achieve remarkable improvements since the 1970s which recorded massive death rates from crashes.
Ban – the solution?
It would seem that the best solution to the problem of distracted driving would be to ban it, however, just like regulations against DUI hasn't stopped people from drinking and driving, it still won't stop or separate most people from their cell phones. Although, several jurisdictions and States have banned the use of cell phones while driving, use of hands-free devices is permitted. However, the restrictions are in most cases meant for minors and newly licensed drivers.
Driving without concentration may have become something of a habit for some. Yes, the ban has gone a long way in reducing the trend but it doesn't solve the problem of distracted driving. Ban of use of mobile phones for drivers may not be an effective solution by itself because although most States in America have banned cell phone use behind the wheel, it hasn't stopped further crashes from happening. However, it is true that if more people adhere to the ban, the roads will be safer.
The solution lies in enforcing the ban as well as adopting other safety strategies to curb the menace.
Innovative ways to tackle the problem
Use of hands-free is not the solution to distracted driving. For one, it still affects the cognitive skills of a driver. It can still cause drivers to momentarily take their mind off the road. Driving without concentration is something people take for granted. A lot of people believe that they can multitask. For any tangible change to occur, more sensitization has to be carried out with regards to distracted driving.
Laws concerning pulling over to take a call should be enforced and defaulter's adequately punished. For instance, if any driver is caught with his cell phone while driving, he or she should be arrested and duly prosecuted.
The adoption and reinforcement of legislative laws prohibiting distracted driving
Companies with fleets of vehicles should be encouraged to adoption policies that are against the use of mobile phones by employees.
Relevant bodies should heighten public sensitization campaigns on the dangers of distracted driving
Data collection centers should be set up across the country to gather data that truly reflects the magnitude of the problem of distracted driving
Collected data should be assessed with the view to halt it so many more lives are not lost as a result of distracted driving.
Cases of car crashes resulting from distracted driving should be effectively documented to serve as a deterrent to potentially distracted drivers.
Lessons on responsible driving should be incorporated into school curriculums at an early stage.
Technology has given birth to several tools that could help the government, relevant bodies and individuals minimize and possibly halt the problem of distracted driving. Technology is central to this problem and technology could still proffer much-needed solution to the problem. Here are a few of such innovative apps and tools.
Canary; this is an app that helps users stay in touch with family and friends when they are on the road. It works on both Android and IOS devices. Here is how it works; it lets you know the exact location of the phone user and displays on the dashboard every time the phone was used while the owner was driving.
Glypse; this app syncs with your car computer to display information on the dashboard, making it easier for you stay connected.
Cellcontrol; this Bluetooth app is plugged to your car and syncs with your smartphone to block any access to it while you are driving. If you try to use your phone while driving, a screensaver comes up blocking your access. Whenever you pull over or stop, you have complete access to your phone.
iZup; this app holds texts, emails and calls while the user is driving with access to only 911 calls. It sends calls straight to voicemail.
Twist; this sends texts to selected contacts just in case you're running late or stuck in traffic jam. It uses your phone's GPS to text such contacts updating them of your exact location.
OneProtect; this mobile app/browser enables parents and users, in general, manage their loved ones phones remotely. This way they can install driving policies on the phones. It locks a driver's phone when they are driving. It's available for Blackberry and Android phones.
Infernal Innovations car phone mounts
Ultimately, no call, text or email message is worth any driver's life not to mention that of other innocent road users. Infernal innovations have the wellbeing of roads users at heart which is why their products are geared towards the safe use of mobile and handheld devices.
Distracted driving can either be cognitive, visual or manual. It is a manual if a driver takes his/her hands off the steering. Cognitive distraction has to do with all distractions that take the driver's mind off the primary focus of driving causing his mind to wander. As for visual distraction, it occurs when the driver takes his/her eyes off the road. Infernal innovations have been working towards reducing car crashes resulting from distracted driving with the range of products. Based on the fact that most of the distractions stem from the use of hand-held devices, the solution could also lie in helping people stay in touch without having to touch their cell phones or hand held devices.
To this end, Infernal innovations have created a wide range of cell phone car mounts with the view to minimizing road crashes and keep American roads safe. Infernal innovation has different kinds of car phone mounts to fit your budget and style as well. "How does this work," you may ask. Cell phone mounts are fast changing the way drivers stay connected behind the wheel. With car phone mounts, you don't need to constantly reach down to pick up your phone when a call comes in. Car mounts or innovative car phone holders can be placed in car vents, dashboards and other areas of the car where they will be in view.
Alleged Federal Cover Of Data: http://drivingwhiletextingaccidents.com/2010/05/texting-while-driving-research/
Death By Text: http://gpssystems.net/texting-dangerous-driving/