Should Distracted Driving be “Normal”?

Distracted DrivingDistracted driving is epidemic

A poll released by Harris Interactive/HealthDay, indicates that most adults who drive on a regular basis readily admit to having engaged in distracted driving behaviors. Eating and drinking lead the list at 86%, talking on non hands free cell phone 59%, using a GPS 41%, texting 37% and applying makeup 14%.

Distracted driving is any driving in which less than your full attention capabilities are going toward driving safely. Distracted is operating a motor vehicle, truck, or car when you are texting, talking on the phone, talking to people in the car, looking around to place that are other than on the roadway.

Distracted driving is dangerous. In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. An estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. 18% of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.

Driving distracted is easy

As my 17-year-old daughter Audrey answered in response to the question, why do so many people use cell phones while driving?: Cell phone use is “normal.”  We use cell phones all the time, so why not while driving?

Texting While Driving

Illinois law on texting is that texting is prohibited while driving. There is now a bill in the House down at the Capitol in Springfield that seeks to ban talking on the cell phone while driving. Law about not being distracted while driving–talking, texting on the phone–were designed for safety.

Cell phone use is a major cause of distracted driving

We think we can multi-task and do it well. We cannot. Research studies show that a multi-tasking person does nothing as well as a person concentrating on a single task. Research studies show that multi-tasking results in poor performance, slow performance and non-performance.

The Brain Cannot Multitask

I read a book called Brain Rules by molecular biologist John Medina. In the chapter on Attention, the author writes: “The brain cannot multi-task. Multi-tasking, when it comes to paying attention is a myth.” Wow. I thought we can all walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes he says, you can walk and chew gum at the same time, but he is talking about the brain’s ability to pay attention. He says the research firmly establishes the fact that our brain can only focus on thing at time.

For drivers, this is critical information. We think we can talk on the cell phone and drive well. Science establishes that we cannot talk on the cell phone and drive with maximum safety. Research shows that a driver on a cell phone has reaction times similar to a legally intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol content of .08. Research shows that a driver who is texting is twice as dangerous as that of a person at the legal level of intoxication. That is scary information.

Recently, I was privileged to present End Distracted Driving  presentations to students at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. The students were mostly in Drivers Education class, so they are ready to go. These young people are at the front lines of the soon to be driving public.  The experience of sharing with and hearing from the students was an eye opener. Guess who they seemed to single out as the worst offenders when it comes to distracted driving? Yes, parents.

We must work to make safe, undistracted driving “normal.” And we can all take a couple simple steps to do that. One step we can all take is to put away the cell phone when we drive.  A second step is to speak up when we see others using their cell phone while driving. Let’s make safe driving “normal.”

When live in an age of distraction. We have so many things pulling for our attention. That is OK if you are sitting on the couch or just sitting around with a friend at dinner. Driving a motor vehicle that is fast, and heavy, and on wheels in a distracted manner could cause all sorts of mayhem, and you may be a victim of distracted driving.

If you have been the victim of someone who was texting, talking on the phone, or otherwise unsafely distracted while driving, and you have questions about how to get a recovery, or how to navigate that process. Please contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss your claim.