Distracted Driving: Causes, Dangers and Solutions
In our fast-paced modern society it seems as if a thousand different stimuli vie for our attention 24 hours a day -- including when we drive. Some of these potential distractions leer out at us from the highways of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley in the form of colorful billboards or road signs. But most of them occur from inside the car, and these can lead to distracted driving accidents.
What Distracts Us?
Distraction.gov lists the three main categories of distraction as visual, manual and cognitive, and you probably own at least one handheld or dashboard-mounted device that scores on all three counts. Think about the ubiquitous smart phone, for example. Do you talk while you drive? Do you text? Do you check your directions? Any of these activities can distract your eyes (visual distraction), your mind(cognitive distraction) or your hands (manual distraction). Even a dashboard-mounted GPS system can pull your attention from the road, even if only for a second -- but that second is long enough to change your life.
Distractions aren't limited to electronic gadgets. Anything you do in a car while you're supposed to be driving counts as a potential danger. Eating, drinking, lighting a cigarette, chatting with passengers, reviewing a paper map, retrieving something from the floor of the car -- all these things can take your mind off your business long enough to cause disaster.
Distractions result in slower reaction times. So that rear bumper you thought was several seconds ahead of you in now mashed up into your headlights, with you or the other driver possibly suffering from whiplash or some other traumatic injury from the jolt of two vehicles coming together. Or that pedestrian who crossed against the lights now lies in the middle of the intersection, in need of an ambulance.
These events are by no means rare. Distraction.gov reports that approximately 448,000 injuries and nearly 5,500 fatalities occurred in 2009 due to distracted driving in 2009 alone. These are the drivers in the lane to your left, the lane to right, ahead of you, behind you. You cannot control another person's driving behaviors -- but you can control your own and should always be looking out for others.
Putting the Brakes on Distractions
What can you do to keep yourself and your loved ones from becoming a road accident statistic due to distracted driving? First, you may have to make some hard decisions about your everyday habits. Some drivers try to modify their behaviors without really changing them. They may, for example, have hands-free phone conversations instead of manually operating a cell phone. Unfortunately, even though they have cut out the manual distraction, the cognitive distraction of the conversation itself remains. Ideally, drivers should avoid taking calls, texting and checking voicemail while on the road. If the call must be taken, you should pull over to a safe stopping place so your distraction will not threaten others' safety. If you have other habits that tend to require your hands, such as smoking or eating behind the wheel, consider whether these indulgences are worth possibly taking someone else's life -- or even your own.
Your family and friends may also need briefing on this new, safer lifestyle. Ask your passengers to keep the noise level down and avoid engaging you in unnecessary conversation while you are trying to drive. Passengers should resist the temptation to pass objects from the front seat to the back or vice versa, as this extra visual and manual distraction can also divert your attention. It might seem less fun, but getting to your destination in one piece makes it all worthwhile.
Contact a Distracted Driving Accident Attorney
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, contact us today. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can start building your case to get you the compensation you deserve.