Cell phone use has sparked an increase in discussion about distracted driving, but texting and/or talking while behind the wheel aren’t the only behaviors that should cause worry. There are three kinds of distraction a driver may face, and all of them introduce different risks. When compounded with other potentially dangerous circumstances, distractions can lead to serious, or even fatal, accidents.
Some common driver distractions include:
- Calling or texting someone
- Operating the in-car entertainment offerings
- Interacting with a navigation system
- Talking to passengers
- Eating or drinking
Anything that draws someone’s attention away from the primary task and/or interrupts their physical capabilities detracts from their driving skills.
How Often Does Distracted Driving Cause Accidents?
Are cell phone talkers actually a big risk, or is the subject just buzzy, leading numerous writers to cover it? The numbers show distracted driving is worth talking about.
Each day, around 9 fatalities are caused by distracted driving accidents—as well as 1,000 injuries, according to numbers from the CDC. In 2018, a total of 2,841 people died after being hit by a driver whose attention wasn’t fully on the road. Though the number of distracted driving fatalities has decreased since 2015, too many drivers, bikers, and pedestrians are threatened each day by those who don’t commit their full attention to traffic safety.
While cell phones aren’t the sole cause of these accidents, they have caused an increase in their frequency. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that around 10% of drivers are using a cell phone at any given time. Whether texting or using hands-free controls, these devices result in a loss of focus and a higher incidence of mistakes. A driver confronted with a dangerous or unusual situation may make the wrong decision.
Another Risk: Nighttime Driving
Even if you like driving at night, you’re probably aware that it’s not as easy as daytime driving. Decreased visibility can hide people, animals, and even other drivers so it seems like they appear “out of nowhere” and force you to slam on the brakes. In the dark, it’s harder to see indications that drivers around you may not be paying attention. Humans also tend to have more trouble judging distances and speeds in low light. All these factors make collisions more likely, no matter how careful you are on the road.
Not only do more accidents occur at night; those involved are much more likely to sustain serious injury. Along with our decreased capability to judge situations, nighttime drivers are more likely to be:
- Caught in rush hour traffic
The more risk factors a driver adds to nighttime commutes, the more likely they are to be in an accident.
The Toll of “Multitasking”
When your visual capabilities are decreased, which causes slower reaction times, it makes sense that taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel may cause an accident. The third type of distraction—cognitive, or taking your mind off the task of driving—can be just as dangerous.
Why Do Cognitive Distractions Matter?
No matter how much we like to think we can perform two jobs at once, we can’t split our attention. It’s simply jumping back and forth rapidly between tasks. Some people think that as long as your attention turns back to driving often enough, it shouldn’t cause a problem. However, that view simplifies the way attention and cognition work.
Before we can make any choices, the information we’re perceiving—through sight, vision, hearing, and our other senses—must become a part of our short-term memory. If you’ve ever tried to remember a long sequence of numbers or an entire group of objects, you might know that our memory can only hold so much. The more input your senses have, the more information your brain is forced to ignore. Multitasking therefore makes us less effective at whatever we are trying to do.
More Blind Spots
That means a driver who’s in the middle of an important phone call may miss the red light or the honk of the car they’re about to sideswipe. In fact, eye-tracking studies have shown that drivers who are talking on cell phones see about 50% less than those who are focusing solely on the road. In easy driving conditions, distracted drivers usually do all right. It’s when the unexpected happens that their split attention can result in an accident.
Distracted driving essentially compounds the difficulties of nighttime driving, as our ability to take in visual information is already limited in the dark. It’s essential that we process every bit of information we can to keep ourselves and other road users safe. When a driver disregards their share of responsibility, others may suffer.
Were You Injured by a Distracted Driver?
With all the evidence showing how cell phones and other distractions make us worse drivers, there’s no excuse for people to split their focus while behind the wheel. If someone causes an accident because they’ve chosen to try to multitask, they should be fully responsible for the consequences.
A lawyer can help you recover compensation for your medical costs, missed work, and other damages if you’ve been in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. You deserve an experienced and caring representative to help you. Our team at Del Rio & Caraway, P.C., can help you exercise your rights after an injury.
You can reach us online or call (916) 229-6755. To serve you better, we speak English, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.