Distracted Driving is the leading cause of auto accidents in the U.S. According to a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 80 percent of automobile accidents are a result of driver distraction. In 2012, more than 3,000 people where killed in crashes and over 420,000 people were injured in crashes resulting from driver distraction. Distracted driving is driving while performing a secondary activity that deviates your attention from the primary activity of driving. According to the CDC there are three main types of distraction:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.
Although any activity that causes a driver to stray attention from driving is dangerous, there are some activities that cause a higher risk of an accident. VTTI, through its research, has identified activities that create a substantial risk of accident. These activates include (but are not limited to):
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio/MP3 player
- Dialing a cell phone
- Talking/Listening to Cell phone
- Reaching for an object
- Text messaging
We hear so much about the dangers of texting, but any of the activities on this list can be distracting and increase the risks of being distracted while driving. And, with so much messaging and social media available on our phone, in our cars and on other gadgets, it is a problem of epidemic proportions.
This study indicates that the most risky secondary activity is texting while driving. This creates a significant problem as texting while driving increases the risk of an accident by more than 23 times and more than 171 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S. in 2012. Texting while driving has a substantial effect on a driver’s ability to concentrate because it is distracting in all three categories (visual, manual, and cognitive). Visually the impact is readily apparent, a driver who is texting takes their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. In 4.6 seconds a driver traveling at 55mph travels the distance of a football field. Cognitively, the danger is less apparent. Cognitive distractions can lead to inattention blindness in which drivers fail to comprehend or process information from objects in the road even if they a looking at them. In other words, the driver is looking at the road but is not seeing what is on the road. Many states, including Florida, have enacted laws in an attempt to prevent accidents caused by distracted drivers. However, the only way to prevent these accidents is for drivers to continuously monitor the traffic around them and to focus solely on driving leaving other tasks for another time.
We need to educate people in our community to curb this behavior. Recently, our firm participated in a presentation at a local Central Florida high school to educate young drivers about these dangers. However, distracted driving and texting is not just a problem with young drivers . Many adult are messaging and looking at social media while driving. Just look to your left and right while on the highway and you will see it. So, this is a community problem. But, it is a problem that can be addressed through education and self control.
A civil trial attorney with the firm Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A., Mr. Damaso concentrates on cases involving personal injury and wrongful deaths and solely represents individual victims and consumers. He takes his clients' cases personally and is committed to their best possible outcome. His strong sense of community has led to his support of numerous charities in the Orlando area.