According to the CDC, over 3,100 people were killed and about 424,000 were injured in the United States in crashes involving a distracted driver last year. About 1 in 5 of the people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver were not in vehicles―they were walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside a vehicle.
Distracted driving generally falls into three categories.
- Visual Distractions: This kind of distraction requires that you take your eyes off the road caused by visual stimulants that avert your eyes;
- Manual Distractions: A manual distraction requires the use of your hands causing you to give up full control of the wheel; and
- Cognitive Distractions: These distractions occupy your mind and carry your thoughts away from driving onto other matters.
Texting and driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three types of driving distractions. In fact, according to a study by Virginia Tech, you are 20 times more likely to crash while texting and driving than when you are not using a cell phone while driving.
The United States Department of Transportation says it takes about five seconds to read a text message. You can travel the length of a football field during that seemingly brief period at 55 mph. The concern is not just the momentary lapse in attention but also the additional time it takes for your eyes to reorient to the road and other cars around you. Teens and young drivers are especially susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving because of their relative inexperience behind the wheel. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 teens admit to responding to at least one text every time they drive according to AAA. The dangers being caused by this behavior cause thousands of motor vehicle accidents every year and hundreds of fatalities.
In 2018, Ohio Revised Code 4511.204 was enacted laws to curb the dangers of using cellular devices while driving. It states that no person, regardless of age, shall use a cellular device to read, send or receive text-based communication. This includes not only reading messages and e-mail, but also checking your Facebook, Instagram, or other social media accounts. Such an infraction is considered a “secondary offense” for those 18 years and older. This means that law enforcement must have some other legally valid reason to pull you over in order to charge you with this offense. However, the law is much tougher on younger drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use their cellular device for any reason while driving including making calls or using a GPS. It’s also a primary offense for these younger drivers meaning an officer can pull you for this violation alone.
We can do more to avoid the horrible consequences that often occur as a result of distracted driving. Most cell phones have a “Don Not Disturb” function that will send an automated text response to incoming calls or messages that you are driving and will answer later. Additionally, there are several apps available that will disable your phone while you are driving to prevent distraction and temptation. Some are specifically designed for parents to monitor and control their young driver’s phones while on they are on the road.
In today’s world we often feel the need to be constantly “connected” and that can make it very hard to put away our electronics while driving. Be smart, be safe, and avoid the temptation to use your cellular device while driving.