Americans are aware of the dangers of drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs, but it’s vital to understand the dangers of distracted driving as well. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of deaths caused by DUI has decreased in recent years as the number of distracted driving deaths has increased. Lawmakers have taken steps to curb the number of distracted driving-related accidents and deaths. It’s crucial that American drivers understand the risks of distracted driving and the consequences of causing an accident due to distraction.
Understanding Distracted Driving
As the name suggests, distracted driving describes any situation in which a driver fails to pay attention to the road. This could include looking at roadside events like accidents and police activity, rummaging through the car for various reasons, or simply allowing one’s mind to wander away from the task at hand. Of all the various types of distracted driving, texting while driving has proven to be the deadliest.
Statistics indicate that texting while driving is roughly the equivalent of drinking four beers before driving. While this may not sound like much to some people, the reality is that even small or “manageable” amounts of alcohol can impair a driver enough to cause an accident. Similarly, even taking a few seconds to read or write a text message can have catastrophic results. Assume that unlocking a phone and reading a text message takes only five seconds. While this may seem like a very short time, a car traveling at higher speeds can cover hundreds of feet in those five seconds. This would essentially equate to driving blind.
Dangers and Legal Consequences of Distracted Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), distracted driving injures 1,161 people and kills eight people every day in the United States. While these statistics are not as severe as the damage caused by drunk drivers, these numbers still indicate an ongoing problem with distracted driving. Drivers who cause accidents and hurt others due to distracted driving stand to incur significant legal penalties, including heavy fines and even jail time.
Many states have enacted laws prohibiting texting while driving, and others even forbid cell phone use entirely while behind the wheel. The penalties for engaging in these activities vary by state, and texting or using a cell phone while driving is just cause for a police officer to stop a driver in some states. While the penalties for violating cell phone laws like these are relatively moderate, distracted drivers who injure other drivers stand to face more severe legal penalties.
Ultimately, distracted driving may not carry the same injury and fatality rates as drunk driving, but the practice is just as, if not more dangerous, than drinking and driving. All drivers should familiarize themselves with the local laws concerning phone use behind the wheel and always err on the side of caution. No text message is worth a life, so drivers should always wait until the vehicle is stopped in a safe location before reading or writing text messages in the car.