April Is Distracted Driving Month. Here’s What You Should Know.

On behalf of The Law Offices of David L. Milligan posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents on Friday, April 22, 2016.

How often have you looked at the car driving alongside you only to see someone looking down, presumably at a cell phone? Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of automobile accidents in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than ten percent of fatal accidents are caused by distracted drivers, and that number is rising every year.

Yet, while most people know it’s dangerous, they do just that; drive their vehicles while doing something else. It is only when they get into an accident that they realize they were not immune to the dangers. That is why the National Safety Council declared April National Distracted Driving Month. The purpose of their campaign is to bring awareness to this dangerous and increasingly common behavior among drivers.

More than texting: Other forms of distracted driving

While texting while driving has become a larger issue than ever before, it’s not the only form of distraction that causes traffic accidents. For instance, taking your hands off the wheel to answer your cell phone or adjusting your vehicle’s electronics can be just as dangerous.

Consider the three most common types of distraction: Visual distraction (eyes off the road), manual distraction (hands off the wheel) and cognitive distraction (mind off the task of driving). While texting and driving is so dangerous because it falls into all three types of distraction, any one of these distractions can lead to an accident.

Perhaps the most surprising to people is cognitive distraction. It is not uncommon for a driver’s mind to wander while they are operating a motor vehicle, which has been known to cause serious accidents.

What you can do to stay safe

First and foremost, shut your phone off when you get into your vehicle or place the volume on mute. Placing your phone on mute will keep the phone from distracting you if you receive a text or some other notification. Nothing is more important than your life. That text can wait.

Second, keep your hands on the wheel. Make it a rule to only take your hands off the wheel when the car is stopped or parked.

Third, watch for distracted drivers and keep your distance from them. Remember that studies have found texting while driving is equally as dangerous as drunk driving. The “swerver” you see might not be drunk — they may be texting.

Finally, always focus on the traffic and other drivers around you. If you find your mind wandering, re-focus on the road ahead of you.

Operating a motor vehicle in a safe manner is everyone’s responsibility. As the National Safety Council says, “Take Back Your Drive.” Please stay safe out there!