No Text Is Worth Your Life: The Costs of Distracted Driving
Just how risky are the little distractions we face every day behind the wheel? We all know how tempting it is to multitask while driving: You can make calls between appointments, find a favorite song on the radio, eat lunch on the go, or send a text saying you’ll be there soon. It’s no surprise that many people wonder, “Is distracted driving really that bad?”
The answer is, most certainly, yes: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and among the safety issues related to operating a motor vehicle, multitasking is one of the most common and hazardous. Consider these concerning facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) and National Safety Council (NSC):
- Every day more than 1,000 people are injured and 9 people killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver.
- Multitasking was to blame for 3,450 traffic fatalities in 2017.
- When we talk on a cell phone, the area of our brain that processes moving images decreases by one-third.
Sure, it’s easy to remember the times when your eyes strayed from the wheel or the road without incident. But think of it this way: Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. It might not seem like a long time, but when you’re moving at 65 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
What is distracted driving?
The definition of a driving distraction has many interpretations. In general, it is anything that diverts motorists from keeping their eyes on the road.
There are three types of driver distractions:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive – taking your mind off driving.
Numerous studies document the risks inherent to visual distracted driving. One of the better-known examples comes from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), which discovered drivers simply dialing numbers on a cell phone nearly tripled the risk of an accident or close call.
Accident risk is greater for company drivers
No one is more aware of just how prevalent and dangerous distracted driving has become than commercial drivers. According to the NSC, car crashes are the #1 cause of workplace fatalities.
Not only is distracted driving a real gamble, the chances of a crash are greater for drivers working on the job. The above-mentioned VTTI study found commercial drivers dialing a phone number were nearly 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who paid attention to the road. Text messaging made the risk of an accident over 23 times more likely.
Of course, even if the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, texting while driving is strictly off-limits for commercial drivers in all 50 states and multiple violations may result in a motorist losing their license. Additionally, the financial penalties for employees and employers are harsh, costing the driver as much as $2,750 and up to $11,000 fine for employers. The takeaway: No text message is worth the life of an employee, bystander or the livelihood of your business. All employers are encouraged to have a distracted driving policy.
Going on the defense
Despite our best efforts, and the awareness of potential devastating consequences, driving distractions are enticing and difficult to resist. This means that, even if you avoid multitasking while on the road, commercial and fleet drivers are still subject to the reckless behaviors of other motorists.
So what’s the answer to staying safe while driving?
Defensive driving is the best way to avoid motor vehicle accidents and involves keeping your eyes on the road and being mindful of other drivers who may be distracted and driving dangerously.
FFVA Mutual offers a 4-hour distracted driving course for employers several times a year at our corporate office and upon request. To schedule training at your workplace, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your safety consultant.