As Springfield personal injury lawyers, we know that distractedness is a common contributor to car accidents in Missouri and throughout the United States. While many drivers assume that driver distraction always involves cell phone use, there are actually numerous "secondary tasks" that can have a negative effect on driving performance. In this post, we share five of the most common driver distractions.
Eyes off the road: Five dangerous driving distractions
1. Using cell phones and other handheld electronic devices. By now, most people know that talking or texting while driving reduces a driver's ability to assess roadway situations and respond to them safely. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to cause a crash than non-texting drivers, and using a cell phone - whether handheld or hands free - impairs a driver as much as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. The bottom line? Put your phone away when you're behind the wheel, and appoint a passenger to answer any texts or calls that require an immediate response.
2. Reaching for objects inside the vehicle. While many drivers don't immediately associate this task with the problem of distracted driving, it is an extremely common form of driver distraction. You take your eyes off the road (just for a moment!) to reach for a cell phone, a sandwich, or an object that's fallen into the floorboard. However, that "moment" of attention can be vital: at 55 miles an hour, a vehicle can travel half a football field in a matter of four seconds. It's extremely dangerous to take your eyes off the road even momentarily, and especially so when traffic is congested.
3. Looking at something outside the vehicle. External distractions - such as auto accidents, billboards, and even the scenery - can draw a driver's full attention away from the road. In particular, it's very common for a Missouri driver to cause a crash because he or she is looking at the aftermath of an earlier wreck. Resist the temptation to shift your focus to a non-driving related object or event.
4. Reading. Whether it's a text message, a map, or a newspaper, reading while driving can have catastrophic consequences. At a minimum, reading takes your eyes off the road and your mind off the task of safe driving - and depending on what you're reading, your hands may also be off the wheel. If you're behind the wheel and you need to read something immediately, find a safe place to pull over.
5. Grooming/putting on makeup. Applying makeup is another disturbingly common form of driver distraction. According to a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), touching up your makeup while driving makes your crash risk about three times higher.