Whether they’re driving on city streets or highways, distracted drivers are a major cause of accidents in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 100,825 traffic accidents in the state that involved driver distraction in 2014 alone. When trying to come up with explanations for the prevalence of distracted behaviors behind the wheel, it isn’t unusual to hear people talk about:
- The rise of smartphones and mobile technology
- The demands of “always on” technology, both at work and at home
- Busy lives that require constant multitasking
While all of these points definitely contribute to the overall problem, one of the biggest factors is simply that many of the things that take drivers’ attention away from the road are so common that drivers aren’t even aware that they’re dangerously distracted—or that it’s a big deal.
What Is Distracting Drivers on the Road?
Because driving is such a routine task for most people, it doesn’t seem like making phone calls, sending quick texts to friends and family, chatting with passengers, or searching for a few MP3s will really interfere. However, any time drivers let their eyes, hands, and minds leave the road—even for a moment—it can be dangerous to the people they share the road with. Although it may come as a surprise, some of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving include common behaviors like:
- Texting while driving. Multiple safety campaigns have addressed texting and driving, and most people know it’s a risk. However, even sending a quick, one-word text or peeking at an incoming message can take drivers’ eyes off the road long enough to cause an accident. It really does only take a moment of distraction to cause a life-changing accident.
- Talking on a cellphone. Although hands-free devices are thought to be safer than using a handheld phone in the car, the truth is that the act of holding a conversation while driving is distracting enough to reduce a drivers’ attention to the road.
- Talking to a passenger in the car. Similarly, just holding a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle can be distracting. The risk increases when the passenger is engaging in behaviors that are unsafe or demand the driver’s attention.
- Using social media or browsing the Internet on a smartphone or tablet. Although teens may be more likely to checking Facebook or Twitter behind the wheel, many adults are also guilty of pulling up a website, sending an email, or making a quick post when they should be focused on driving. Constant smartphone notifications from social media sites can tempt drivers of all ages to take their eyes off the road.
- Adjusting controls. Changing the radio station, searching for a track on a CD or MP3 player, adjusting the air conditioning, and other little tasks of driving can mean that drivers take both their eyes and hands off the wheel. Drivers should make sure that everything is set and ready before they get on the road.
- Reaching or looking for items. Drivers also need to make sure that they have everything they need close at hand for the drive. Digging around in a bag or ducking down to grab something off the floor can spell disaster, especially at highway speeds.
- Eating, drinking, and smoking. Drivers who are juggling a cup of coffee, a sandwich, or a cigarette don’t have both hands on the wheel. Trying to eat, drink, or deal with drops and spills while driving is a huge risk, and it makes it hard for drivers to react appropriately to changes on the road.
- Working behind the wheel. It may be tempting to try to cram in a little extra work behind the wheel, and some employers expect it. However, listening to conference calls, making notes, checking email, or reporting in to the main office takes drivers’ attention away from driving.
- Looking at a map. Lots of drivers need to use maps, apps, and GPS devices to get where they’re going. However, looking for the right turn, landmark, or location can be a big distraction.
- Distractions outside the car. Following road signs, looking for somewhere to gas up, noticing unusual activities at the roadside, and enjoying the sights are all a normal part of travel, but they could get in the way of paying attention to what’s important behind the wheel. Drivers need to make sure that their priority is paying attention to driving.
- Grooming. Leaving late for work or heading out for a fancy event can leave drivers checking their faces in the rearview or making a few last-minute hair adjustments on the drive. However, drivers who are paying attention to looking good can’t pay attention to driving safely.
- Getting lost in thoughts. Even when drivers’ hands are on the wheel and their eyes on the road, they may not really be paying attention to what’s going on around them. Daydreaming or getting lost in thoughts can be just as distracting as any of the above behaviors.
When drivers aren’t paying attention behind the wheel, they create the conditions for serious accidents that take lives or leave people seriously injured. However, they often take the risks of driving—and their responsibility behind the wheel—for granted. Distracted driving is a complicated issue, but everyone can take steps to pay more attention behind the wheel and take safety seriously.
If you or a family member has already been hurt in an accident with a distracted driver, you should know that you may have rights to hold the driver responsible for what happened to you. Please contact VB Attorneys today at 1-877-724-7800 to find out how we can help you secure the compensation you and your family deserve.