distracted driving: anything that causes you to either take your attention away from driving, take your eyes off of the road or take your hands off of the wheel
–Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
The conversation about distracted driving is not a new one, but it should not be forgotten either. We all need reminders from time to time and need to make it an ongoing effort to avoid. A distraction is anything that prevents a driver from paying attention to driving only. This could be a visual distraction (looking away from the road), a manual distraction (hand(s) taken off the wheel) or a cognitive distraction (brain not focused on driving). What activities contribute most to distracted driving?
- Texting – In Pennsylvania, it is prohibited to send, read or write “text-based communication.” That means whether it’s a text, social media post or email from a phone, laptop or tablet, it doesn’t matter. Any form of typing on a device is against the law. A GPS is not included.
- Adjusting Music Or GPS – When trying to change the radio station or operate a GPS, you are physically and cognitively distracted from the road. That means that at least one hand is off the steering wheel and your focus is somewhere other than the road.
- Eating, Drinking & Smoking – According to PennDOT, eating, drinking or smoking are risks because each activity requires that at least one hand is taken off the steering wheel and your eyes are off the road, even if just for a moment. They also indicate that those engaged in these activities while driving are likely to brake more frequently, drift out of their lane and in general struggle to control their vehicle. This is especially true if you are someone who operates their steering wheel with their knee.
- Interacting With Other Passengers – While this can be an issue for any driver, it’s particularly dangerous for teenage or beginner drivers. Statistics show that teen drivers are more likely to crash if they have teenage passengers in the vehicle than if they have adult passengers in the vehicle.
- Reading & Writing – Reading a newspaper, a physical map or anything else while driving takes your vision off the road and is extremely dangerous. Writing down a phone number, directions or a check is equally dangerous, as both activities require at least one hand. As unsafe as these activities are alone, they are often paired with speaking on the phone and getting or giving information to the person on the other end. No matter how you slice it, it’s a recipe for disaster.
- Searching For An Object In The Vehicle – What is particularly dangerous about searching for something in your car while driving is that more often than not, you’re not just quick glancing down at the dash or lap which is bad enough. Often, drivers who do this are looking on the floor, in the backseat or even sifting through bags or other compartments of the vehicle which means your eyes are way off the road and you have at least one hand off the steering wheel.
- Personal Grooming – Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for someone to apply makeup or comb their hair while driving. Not only does this mean there’s at least one hand off the wheel, but there’s a strong likelihood that the driver has their eyes in a mirror and not on the road.
- Looking At Distractions Outside The Vehicle – It’s human nature to be curious about what’s going on around you. However, those distractions must take a back seat when driving. When drivers are distracted by looking at people, construction, or scene of car accidents outside of their vehicle, their vision is taken off of the road and can actually cause another accident.
What are the consequences?
- Vehicle & Property Damage – Distracted driving can lead to the damage of your own vehicle, other vehicles, as well as property of others.
- Injuries – Depending on the severity of a motor vehicle accident, distracted drivers, passengers and other parties could suffer anything from minor pain, a severe injury, or even a fatality.
- Jail Time – If a distracted driver’s offense leads to the death of another person, they could be charged with homicide by vehicle. That type of an offense could lead to serving time in jail.
- Car Insurance – After a claim or incident related to distracted driving, an insurance carrier could raise your premium rates or even drop you as a client entirely.