According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2013 and more than 1,000 were in their teens or twenties. What’s more, 424,000 people were injured due to distracted driving. Alex Perdikis of Koons Automotive believes that raising awareness is key to reducing the number of traffic deaths and injuries from distracted driving. Perdikis says, “It only takes a second to make a dangerous and potentially life changing mistake.”
A Second That Lasts a Lifetime
During last April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Maryland State Police conducted an experiment to illustrate what happens in this “technological epidemic.” They constructed a track using cones and asked student drivers to drive the track while using their cell phones. Not one driver going 25 miles per hour was able to stay within the cones while using a phone. Interestingly, when the officers performed under the same test, the results were the same. No officer stayed within the cones while using a cellphone, even at a relatively slow speed of 25 miles per hour. Imagine what happens at faster speeds.
According to government statistics, a driver’s eyes are off the road for an average of five seconds while texting. If a car is traveling 55 miles per hour, five seconds is enough time to drive the entire length of a football field.
Maryland law has severe penalties for those who text or talk on the phone and cause serious injuries. Offenders face up to $5,000 in fines and three years in prison. Police officers also conducts aggressive enforcement campaigns during Distracted Driving Awareness Month as well as other times throughout the year.
It’s Not Just Cell Phones
Much of the confusion about distracted driving comes from misconception that distracted driving is only about cellphone use. In fact, distracted driving has been a problem since cars were invented. Eating and drinking in the car, talking to passengers, adjusting the radio and personal grooming are all activities that distract and could potentially cause an accident. Even driving related activities, such as using a navigation system, distract drivers. Anything that diverts a driver’s attention from the road is a potential danger.
Tips for Avoiding Distracted Driving
Distractions are everywhere, but with extra preparation and planning, you can reduce the urge to use your phone or engage in other activities that take your eyes and mind off the road. Follow these useful tips.
- Store loose objects, such as cups, snacks and phones in a zipped container out of arm’s reach.
- Check your navigation system and decide on your route before you head out.
- Get behind the wheel fully dressed and completely groomed – don’t shave, put on makeup or finish getting dressed while you drive.
- Ask your passengers to help you keep your eyes on the road and reduce distractions.
- Make sure pets and children are safely secured before hitting the road. If they need attention, pull safely to the side of the road, stop and take care of the problem.
- On long drives, stop to eat and take a break.
- If you’re an adult, be a shining example of what it means to drive without distractions. Young people aren’t the only guilty parties when it comes to distracted driving.