Distracted driving is a serious problem throughout the nation for drivers of all ages as well as cyclists, pedestrians and everyone who shares the road. New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman recently put the problem into perspective, saying more than one million crashes in the past decade involved a distraction of some kind.
Sources claim there were around 3 million auto accidents between 2004 and 2013. About 1.4 million of those, nearly half, involved driver distraction. In those accidents, more than 1,600 people died.
The “Decade of Distracted Driving”
Hoffman called it the decade of distracted driving, saying that something needs to be done to stop such accidents and save future lives. Hoffman has also warned that this problem is only getting worse, rather than better. The rate of distracted driving crashes is rising.
In 2004, for instance, inattention was cited in 42 percent of crashes. Today, inattention is cited in 53 percent of all accidents. The percentage of distracted driving accidents has grown 26 percent during the past decade.
Law enforcement cracking down
Several police departments have received grants to help fund distracted driving prevention and enforcement efforts. This comes from the new federal campaign “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” The campaign includes checkpoints and increasing patrols to hold distracted drivers accountable before they cause an accident.
Law enforcement has issued around 3,000 summonses for distracted driving violations, only halfway into the campaign.
A recent survey revealed that even though 9 out of 10 respondents knew it was against the law to text and drive, 3 in 10 admitted to doing it anyway despite the dangers of it being mentioned all over the local news, internet and roadside signs.
There are many causes of distractions
Texting and emailing aren’t the only distractions to drivers, others include talking on your phone and even reaching for it. When cited on accident reports, “inattention” also can refer to eating behind the wheel, dropping something on the floorboard or even changing the radio station.
Recent research suggests that even hands-free technology is distracting. Your mind is still being distracted, even though your hands aren’t. This leads to something referred to as “inattention blindness”.
A recent study from the University of Iowa Public Policy Center found that when drivers used hands-free devices there was a reduction of brain activity in the areas needed for driving of about 37 percent. In other words, the mere acts of listening and talking are enough to cause a serious auto accident.
This research is a strong indicator that we need to go above and beyond what the laws require of us. Putting down your cell phone and ending texting while driving isn’t enough, you need to make sure your eyes and your mind stay focused solely on the road ahead. Anything less, and you risk being involved in an accident that could dramatically change your life forever.
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