Distracted driving – you’ve probably heard the term, but did you realize that distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)? There are hundreds of examples in our area. A recent article on Philly.com recounted a 2016 crash that killed a pedestrian in Allentown and a 2017 accident that took the life of a 12-year-old in Northampton County, in both instances the drivers were charged with texting.
A 2016 State Farm survey revealed some other startling facts: more than 35 percent of drivers reported texting while driving and that number skyrockets to 61 percent for drivers age 18 to 25. But it’s not just texting, 50 percent of respondents said they talk on a handheld cell phone, 29 percent of drivers have used the internet and 19 percent have even updated social media while behind the wheel.
So what can you do?
- Use a hands-free device, if you must make a call while driving.
- If you must send or receive a text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first.
- If you have passengers, appoint a ‘designated texter’ to handle all texting.
- As a parent, model good behavior by never driving distracted. Discuss distracted driving with your young driver(s) and the hazards associated with it.
- Consider utilizing an app aimed at preventing distracted driving with functionality such as blocking calls and texts while driving or reading text messages so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.
- Place your phone out of reach, such as in the glove compartment or trunk, if you do not feel you will be able to resist using it while driving.
Technology is a huge factor, but it isn’t just cell phones that lead to distracted driving. Any non-driving activity you engage in can increase your risk of crashing such as eating or drinking, talking with passengers, operating the stereo or navigation system, or even looking at roadside attractions or accidents.
Drivers may not realize the danger they create when they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their focus off driving. Remember, driving is not the time to multitask – as the NHTSA advocates, safe driving means driving without distractions. You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention.
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