Over the last 30 years, there has been a decrease in traffic fatalities, largely due to technological advances such as anti-lock braking, airbags, improved seatbelts and child restraints. However, new and distracting technology has also been introduced into our lives, offsetting the reduction in car crash fatalities because there are now more distracted drivers on the road.
What is a distracted driver? We’ve all seen one. Someone who chats away on a cell phone while driving, or is texting, using a GPS, watching movies, eating/drinking, reading, smoking, personal grooming, adjusting car features, or playing loud music. While people have been doing the latter six for longer than 30 years, the first three are relatively new technological inventions that make for even more distracted drivers.
Here are some stats (from CAA):
Cellphones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers engaged in text messaging are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event.
Drivers engaged in talking on a cell-phone are 4 to 5 times more likely.
Drivers dialing on a hand-held device are 3 times more likely, and even when talking or listening on a hand-held device drivers are 1.3 times more likely to get into a crash or have a near-crash event.
However, it’s not just technological items that distract us. Drivers are three times more likely to get in a crash (or near-crash event) when applying makeup, and nine times more likely when reaching for a moving object. Drivers are also distracted by adjusting the car climate controls, other vehicle occupants, eating/drinking, and by what is going on outside of the car (construction, other drivers, etc.).
According to experts, the key to reducing traffic deaths is to focus on driver behaviour, which is the sole or partial cause of nearly 95 percent of crashes. We can also implement sensible laws which prevent speeding, such as using speed-detecting radar and other technology. We also have to shift our mindset and think of driver behaviour as a public issue, not a private matter, as distracted drivers affect a variety of other people.
What can you do to reduce the possibility of becoming a distracted driver? Aside from the obvious, which is not using cellphones and other technologies while driving, you can also implement these key strategies:
Plan your route ahead of time so you are less distracted by which way to go.
Place items like purses, backpacks and coats in the trunk or safely tucked behind the seat on the ground so they will not go flying if you have to brake in an emergency.
For longer trips, switch drivers, and try not to schedule trips that start before your regular wake-up time, or end after your regular bedtime.