Distracted driving, especially texting while driving is one of the best-known risks on the road. Much like drunk driving, distracted driving has been the focus of awareness campaigns and tragic plotlines in popular movies and television shows for decades now.
Here in Alabama, lawmakers have long since outlawed the manual entry of data into telephones, although they did recently decline to pass a bill that would have outlawed all hand-held phone use while driving. Despite the rules prohibiting distracted driving and public awareness of how dangerous it can be, many people still pick up their phones at the wheel.
You probably see distracted drivers every day
Some people don’t even try to hide their illegal distraction-related behaviors at the wheel. They will hold their phone up right in front of the steering wheel for everyone else in traffic to spot. Others will try to be a bit more subtle, keeping their phone in their lap or their cup holder.
However, they will likely still take one hand off of the wheel and look at their phone. They will also experience cognitive distraction because their focus is on their device and not on traffic conditions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is a major cause of traffic fatalities. In 2020, at least 3,142 people died in crashes related to distraction.
Technology is only one source of distraction
In all likelihood, many more crashes than that probably involve distraction, but there wasn’t evidence to prove the distraction. Police officers, lawyers and insurance companies can access phone records or data usage information from app developers to prove phone use at the time of a crash.
Some drivers will admit that distraction was the cause of their mistake at the wheel, which is why experts know that thousands of deaths annually are the results of digital distraction. There may be many more distraction-related crashes and deaths than people realize, as you can’t possibly prove that someone was too distracted by singing along to the radio or daydreaming about their upcoming vacation to be safe.
Drivers can protect themselves by assuming that almost everyone else is distracted or will make a mistake. Realizing that distracted driving is still a major threat on the roads could help you avoid a car crash or hold someone accountable for causing one.