Do Drivers Really Appreciate the Risks of Distracted Driving?

Today, most drivers in Oklahoma and throughout the country realize that distracted driving increases their risk of getting into a car accident. In fact, many drivers today see it as being as great of a threat – if not more of one – than drunk driving, according to a recent national survey. However, the way people respond to this threat does not always match their recognition of it.

Survey: People Drive While Distracted Despite Knowing Risks

In March 2018, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index. In that survey, 87.5 percent of drivers said that they viewed distracted driving as being “a bigger problem today than in past years,” compared to only 43.4 percent who felt that way about drunk driving. Additionally, 96.8 percent of drivers said that they saw texting or e-mailing while driving as a “serious threat,” while 94.3 percent had the same attitude towards drunk driving. Clearly, distracted driving is on people’s minds.

Yet, the survey revealed a disturbing fact: Most drivers respond to the risks of drunk driving by avoiding that behavior – but they don’t do the same when it comes to distracted driving. In the survey, only 13.5 percent of drivers admitted to driving at least once in the prior year after they believed they had too much to drink. At the same time, 44.9 percent of drivers admitted that they had read a text or e-mail while driving in the past year, while 34.6 percent said they had typed a text or e-mail when they were behind the wheel.

In reality, the number of distracted drivers may be even higher. In 2017, the driving analytics firm, Zendrive released what it called “the largest and most robust driver phone use study” to date. According to that study, which looked at the frequency and duration of phone use of 3.1 million people, drivers were on their smartphones at least once during 88 percent of their car trips. In fact, they were on their phones for 3.5 minutes out of every hour they were on the road.

 Why Should We Be More Concerned About Distracted Driving?

As the Zendrive study’s authors noted, all it takes is two seconds to travel roughly the length of two basketball courts if you are going 55 miles per hour in your car – and all it takes is two seconds with your eyes off the road to increase your crash risk by more than 20 times.

It’s not just taking your eyes off the road which heightens the danger. As the National Institutes of Health notes, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 found that teen drivers were eight times more likely to get into an accident or experience a “near miss” when they dialed a phone, and they were seven to eight times more likely to get into a crash or have a near miss when they simply reached for the phone or other object. Texting increased their risk four times.

In another interesting – but, admittedly, not very scientific – study, researchers from Car and Driver magazine found that sending a text was even more dangerous than driving while legally impaired (0.08 blood alcohol level). According to CNBC, the researchers tested how long it took a driver to brake when:

  • Unimpaired – 0.54 seconds
  • Legally impaired – another four feet of distance
  • Reading an e-mail – an additional 36 feet
  • Sending a text – an additional 70 feet.

Finally, we should look at the most recent traffic crash statistics from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO). In 2016, the figures show, alcohol use contributed to:

  • 173 fatal crashes
  • 835 injury crashes
  • 3,356 total crashes.

On the other hand, distracted driving involving the use of electronic devices and other distractions contributed to far less fatal crashes (34) but significantly more injury crashes (3,152) and total crashes (8,390) than alcohol use.

 How Can We Stop Distracted Driving in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma law prohibits texting while driving and bars commercial drivers and public transit drivers from using hand-held phones when they drive. However, laws go only so far when it comes to stopping people from driving while distracted. In a survey by the driver analytics firm, Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), only 39 percent of drivers said that laws actually incentivized them to put down their phones while driving.

If we want to stop distracted driving in Oklahoma and elsewhere, our society may need to go beyond passing new laws. It may take some creativity. For example, in that same CMT survey, more drivers said they would be motivated to stop cell phone use while driving if they received insurance discounts (79 percent) or rewards such as gift cards or promotions (59 percent).

Still, the most practical approach may be to focus prevention efforts on our youngest drivers. After all, drivers in the 16 to 25 age group accounted for roughly 38 percent of the distracted driving accidents in Oklahoma in 2016, OHSO statistics show. That is a startling figure. Parents, in this sense, can play a key role.

If you are the parent of a young driver, you should take the time to talk with your child about the dangers of distracted driving. Stress to your child that he or she should never try to multitask when behind the wheel. Of course, you can also set strict rules such as:

  • Turn off the phone when you drive. You can only use the phone in the car if there is an emergency – and even then, you must pull off to a safe area before you turn it on.
  • No eating or drinking while driving is allowed.
  • You can only drive with one passenger until you are more experienced and mature driver.
  • If you violate any of these rules, you lose your driving privileges until further notice.

While it may seem harsh to set down these rules, and the child may balk at them at first, the reality is that you will do your child and others on the road a favor and, perhaps, help to save lives.

 Hurt by a Distracted Driver? Our Oklahoma Car Accident Attorneys Are Here to Help

Unfortunately, neither you nor your young driver can control what others do on the road. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, make sure to protect your rights by getting help from an experienced and dedicated Oklahoma car accident attorney. Contact Cain Law Office today, and we will provide you with a free consultation through our offices in Oklahoma City and Edmond.