April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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April 7, 2016

Our cars are more connected than ever. Automakers are putting the latest technology into our vehicles so we can text, email, update social media and even make dinner reservations from our dashboards. But just because these systems are available does not make them safe to use. The National Safety Council tackles a couple myths about distracted driving.

Myth: My car came with an infotainment system. Since it’s built into my car, it must be safe.

Fact: Marketing for these technologies has been powerful. A National Safety Council survey found more than 50 percent of drivers believe this myth – that infotainment systems must be safe to use because they are built into cars. But technologies that allow drivers to make hands-free calls, dictate texts or emails, and update social media have not been thoroughly safety tested. Existing research shows these systems can be distracting to drivers. In fact, on industry study found drivers doing some voice tasks via infotainment systems may remain distracted for as long as 27 seconds after they finish the task.

Myth: Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car.

Fact: A 2008 study cited by the University of Utah found that drivers distracted by cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions because they are the only ones in the conversation who are aware of the road.

In contrast, drivers with adult passengers in their cars have an extra set of eyes and ears to help keep the drivers alert of oncoming traffic problems. Adult passengers also tend to adjust their talking when traffic is challenging. People on the other end of a driver’s cell phone cannot do that.

Myth: Most car crashes are caused by car malfunctions such as faulty brakes, blown tires or engine problems.

Fact: Vehicle problems are not the primary cause of car crashes. They represent a very small portion of crashes, and most vehicle problems have to do with improperly inflated or maintained tires. More than 90 percent of all crashes are caused by driver error and can be prevented.

We know distraction can lead to driver error. We also know distracted driving is common – 9 percent of drivers are talking on phones while driving at any given daylight moment. Distracted drivers miss seeing up to 50 percent of what is around them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, traffic signs and other vehicles.

Pledge to Be an Attentive Driver

Thousands have died in car crashes because drivers are distracted by cell phone conversations, emails, text messages and social media. Do not become a statistic. Here are some tips to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on the drive.
  • First and foremost, turn off your cell phone. Put it in the glove compartment, in your purse or in your trunk. There is no safe way to make a call while driving – not even hands-free.
  • Send and read text messages and emails before you start driving.
  • If you’re going on a longer drive, schedule breaks to stop, park safely and respond to messages.
  • Using voice features in your car’s infotainment system is also distracting. Take care of communications before you start driving.
  • Know where you’re going before you put the car in “drive.” Put your destination into your GPS so you do not need to fiddle with it while the car is moving.
  • Social media can wait. No update, tweet or video is worth an accident.
  • Park in a safe area if you must take a call, return a text or check email.
  • Do not call or text friends or family if you know they are driving.
Source: National Safety Council
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