Texting, Talking, and Driving

Driving requires a great deal of concentration in order to perform the function safely. A vehicle is considered a piece of heavy machinery, and it is a machine that responds to your commands with regards to steering and speed. Your eyes and ears must be intently focused on the road in front of you as well as the side and rear view mirrors, and you must respond to road conditions that range from another driver driving recklessly near your vehicle to wildlife, traffic signs and more. As much attention that needs to be focused on the roads while driving, it is important to note that not all drivers make a concerted effort to avoid distractions on the roadways.

Common Distractions
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, otherwise known as NHTSA, defines a distraction as anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of driving and requires the driver to focus on the source of the distraction instead. One distraction that has received considerable media attention in recent years is the cell phone. With a cell phone, a person may be required to use at least one hand to pick the phone up or even to push a button for blue tooth connectectivity. The driver may continue to be distracted as he focuses on a phone conversation. Texting with a cell phone can be even more distracting as it requires the driver to take at least one hand, and usually two, off the steering wheel. It also requires the driver to take his eyes off the road as he reads or types a text message. Even talking to someone inside the vehicle can be a distraction. The experience of driving is not only about the physical aspect of driving the vehicle. It also requires your mental focus. If you are distracted by a conversation you are having with someone else, either in the car or on the phone, you may not respond quickly to road conditions and more as you drive.

The Statistics
While the media has placed heavy attention on the dangers of texting and driving in recent years, this has increased awareness of other unsafe driving habits that they have. This may include
– applying makeup
– shaving
– eating fast food
– reading a book

However, despite the increased national awareness on the subject of unsafe driving practices and distractions to drivers, it is important to note that fatalities caused by distracted drivers has increased over the years. Here are some interesting statistics from the NHTSA.
– In 2005, there were a total of 39,252 accidents involving fatalities in the country. Of those, 4,026 were caused by distracted drivers. This accounts for approximately 10 percent of fatal accidents on roadways in 2005.
– In 2009, however, 4,898 out of a total of 30,797 fatal accidents were caused by distracted drivers. For 2009, 16 percent of fatal accidents were the result of distracted drivers.

While the number and percentage of fatal accidents increased significantly from 2005 to 2009, the number of accidents resulting in injuries caused by distracted driving decreased.
– In 2005, 22 percent of all accidents resulting in injuries were caused by distracted drivers.
– In 2009, only 20 percent of all accidents resulting in injuries were caused by distractions.

What Is Being Done About Distractions
The unfortunate fact is that little has been done by state governments to prevent unsafe driving practices regarding activities such as applying makeup, shaving, eating, talking to others inside the vehicle and more. In most states, unless a law enforcement official sees a driver operating the vehicle recklessly, the driver is within his rights to do those unsafe activities. However, many states have passed laws limited or banning cell phone usage for talking as well as texting while operating a vehicle. Currently, 39 states have banned cell phone usage for texting while driving a vehicle. Some states have specific laws regarding bus drivers operating buses and novice or inexperienced drivers using cell phones. No state currently has a law forbidding cell phone usage for phone conversations, but some states do prohibit novice drivers and bus drivers from using a cell phone while driving.

Many of the laws regarding texting and cell phone usage went into place after the NHTSA’s data regarding 2005 and 2009 accidents was released. The effects of these laws are not yet fully known. However, it is believed that these laws as well as the potential passage of additional laws regarding drivers’ safety and limiting distractions to drivers will improve the statistics.