Don't be distracted

Distracted driving consistently ranks as one of the foremost traffic safety issues. Susan Helms, director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Mid-South, shares some statistics and offers tips to help drivers stay safe on the roads.

What are driver distractions?

Statistics show that drivers spend more than half of their time focused on things other than driving. These distractions contribute to more than 5,000 traffic fatalities each year. Driver distractions reduce a driver’s:

  • Awareness of the driving environment
  • Decision-making process
  • Driving performance

This results in crashes or near-crashes and corrective actions taken by you and other drivers on the road.

What are the three main types of driver distractions?

Driver distractions are anything that takes your:

  • Eyes off the road (visual)
  • Mind off the road (cognitive)
  • Hands off the steering wheel (manual)

Texting and phone calls aren’t the only distractions. Other distractions include passengers, eating, reading, applying makeup, reaching for an object inside the vehicle, looking at an object outside the vehicle or use of in-car technologies.

What are the risk factors of distracted driving?

Drivers who engage more frequently in distracted driving are more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash or near-crash.

  • 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some kind of driver distraction.
  • In these instances, the distraction occurred within three seconds of the vehicle crash.
  • Some activities—such as texting—take the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.
  • Inexperienced drivers younger than 20 may be at increased risk; they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
  • Nearly half of all U.S. high school students aged 16 years or older text or email while driving.
  • Students who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and five times as likely to drink and drive than students who don’t text while driving.

What are some tips to minimize distractions and arrive safely?

Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, offers this pledge to help stay safe at the wheel:

  • Stay focused and pay attention.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Ensure all passengers are buckled-up properly.
  • Be well-rested and in the appropriate mindset to drive.
  • Driving while you are upset or angry can be just as dangerous as driving when you are tired.
  • Help your teen identify and reduce distractions when he/she is driving.
  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Allow sufficient time to reach your destination.

Always remember to keep your mind on your driving, your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

teens, driving, safety