Distracted driving is preventable

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which recognizes that it is possible to eliminate and prevent deaths from distracted driving. I’m all for preventing tragedy if possible and distracted driving is high on my list.

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What is distracted driving? This refers to any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash. This could include anything from eating breakfast on your morning commute to sending a quick text to let someone know you’re on your way.

Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. In addition, on any given day, around 660,000 people are on their cell phones or other electronic devices while driving.

Many distractions exist while driving, including dashboard infotainment systems, eating in the car and children or animals in the back seat. Cell phones and texting in particular, are the top distraction because it involves visual, manual and cognitive distraction. Visual distraction is taking your eyes off the road, manual distraction is taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive distraction is taking your mind off driving.

Next time you’re cruisin’ around town, casually look around and see if you can spot a distracted driver. Almost everyone has seen a driver distracted by a cell phone. They’re not hard to spot. I’ve seen people texting with the phone at 12 on the steering wheel as if to have their eyes on the road and the phone at the same time.

It is estimated that one in four car crashes involve cell phone use. Many people know that using cell phones to text while driving is dangerous, but many underestimate the danger it puts you in. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is similar to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Here are some helpful tips to eliminate distracted driving:

Put aside your electronic distractions. Do not use cell phones while driving, including text messaging, phone calls, email functions, video games or social media. Avoid temptation by turning off or putting your device away before driving.

If another activity demands your attention, like children in the back seat or a phone call, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off of the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place.

Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before you get in your car, not while driving. When on the road, avoid foods that are difficult to manage if you need to eat while driving.

When driving with passengers, have them help you focus safely on driving by letting them be in charge of the navigational system or GPS, climate controls and sound system.

Stay safe on the road by using these simple tips. Keep in mind that children and teens are watching so set the safe driving example you hope they will follow when the time comes for them to be behind the wheel. Deaths from distracted driving are preventable but it takes a team effort. Drive safe.

For questions or comments about this column please feel free to email me at a.price@uky.edu.