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The Dangers of Distracted Driving

You might drive on the roadways everyday, but are your eyes always on the road and are your hands always on the steering wheel? Simple things like adjusting the radio station or talking to passengers can distract drivers, even if only for few seconds. However, even a few seconds of distracted driving could have devastating consequences.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving occurs anytime a driver engages in an activity that could divert their attention away from the primary task of driving. Distracted driving can be broken down into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions happen when a driver takes their eyes off the road, manual distractions involve taking their hands off the steering wheel, and cognitive distractions occur when the driver takes their mind off of the task of driving.

Driving distractions can include:

•    Texting
•    Cell phone use
•    Eating or drinking
•    Talking to passengers
•    Grooming
•    Using a GPS
•    Adjusting the radio

Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?

On average, drivers take their eyes off the road for five seconds while texting while driving. This might not seem like much, but considering your vehicle could travel the length of a football field in those five seconds at 55 miles per hour, this could cause catastrophic injuries. Other activities like putting on makeup or eating force a driver to take their eyes off of the road and hands off of the steering wheel for even longer.

How Widespread Is The Problem?

Anyone who has driven on Texas roads knows that distracted driving has become a serious problem. It’s hard to drive more than a mile or two without seeing at least one and quite possibly several drivers either talking away on a cell phone or with their heads jerking up and down as they switch between looking up at traffic and down at the device on which they’re typing a text message that apparently can’t wait until the next rest stop. As a result of this behavior, you’ve probably seen their vehicles swerving slightly. If you’re lucky, that’s all you saw.

If you have a sneaking suspicion that the problem of distracted driving is a common and dangerous one, your suspicions are borne out by statistics.

To show how widespread the problem is, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011, 69 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 64 admitted to researchers that they had talked on their phone at least once in the previous 30 days, while another 31 percent said they had either sent or read a text message during the same period.

Statistics also show that the danger is real. According to statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), in 2014 Texas roadways saw 100,825 accidents involving a driver who was distracted, resulting in 3,214 serious injuries and 468 fatalities. In all, one out of every five Texas crashes involves a driver who was distracted.

When a driver is distracted, they may not see other drivers on the road, and they may not be able to react quickly enough when approaching a vehicle or hazard up ahead. They may also break basic driving rules and run a traffic light or stop sign or fail to yield right of way.

Drivers Know The Risks

A survey including 2,000 Americans found 92% believed distracted driving is a top cause of car accidents. This is hardly surprising considering the dangers of distracted driving are obvious, but what is surprising is how many people do it anyway. At any given daylight moment an estimated 660,000 Americans are using a cell phone or other mobile device while driving. This is particularly frightening considering taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds increases your likelihood of a car accident by 20%, according to the NHTSA.

Houston Texting And Driving Ban

Houston finally has a texting and driving ban in place, and drivers can be fined up to $200 for violations. Unfortunately, this ban only covers some types of cell phone use, and thus only some of the potential distractions. Hopefully, the ban will help encourage drivers to stop dangerous driving behavior, but the reality is many reckless drivers are putting other Houstonians at risk. Regardless of the texting and driving ban, all drivers are required to be in control of their vehicles at all times. Drivers who recklessly endanger the lives of other motorists can face serious consequences.

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