According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.”
Distracted driving is not limited to texting or making calls on a cellular device; any activity that diverts a driver’s attention puts that driver, passengers, and others sharing the road at serious risk.
Erie Insurance has conducted a survey where people admitted to brushing and flossing their teeth, putting on make up, changing clothes and even going to the bathroom.
Traffic safety experts classify distractions into three main types: Manual, visual and cognitive.
Manual distractions are those where you move your hands away from the task of controlling the vehicle. Reaching for a soda in the drink carrier is an example of a manual distraction.
Visual distractions are those where you focus your eyes away from the road. You drop your soda, and when it spills all over the floor of the car, you look down at your ruined shoes and stained slacks: that’s a visual distraction.
A cognitive distraction is when you’re mind wanders away from the task of driving. You start to consider whether you can afford to replace the clothing you just ruined, and what stores have bargains this week, and you’re no longer paying attention to the essential job of driving. Bingo: cognitive distraction.
The NHTSA has gone on to point out because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver it is by far the most alarming distraction.
As of December 2015, 156.7 billion text messages were sent every month, totaling 1.89 trillion for the year in the United States.
These astonishing numbers regrettably shine some light on the possibility of why almost nine people a day are killed and another 1,181 are injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver.
According to the NHTSA, drivers in the 20s make up 23 percent of drivers in all fatal vehicle accidents, and 27 percent of all reported distracted drivers. Out of the numbers listed above, 38 percent of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes were reported to be in their 20s.
In a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 90 percent of drivers recognized the danger from cell phone distractions and found it “unacceptable” that drivers text or send e-mail while driving. Nevertheless, 35 percent of these same people admitted to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month. Similarly, two-thirds of the survey respondents admitted to talking on a cell phone, even though 88 percent found it a threat to safety.