The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Texas
Operating a vehicle requires an immense amount of minute decisions, quick reactions, snap judgments, and close attention. We must always be checking our speed, watching for changing traffic signals, being on the lookout for potential hazards, and countless other observations and decisions that ensure a safe time on the roads. So what happens when half of that crucial attention is being paid to something else?
In 2009, an estimated 448,000 motorists were injured in accidents involving distracted driving. 24,000 of those injuries involved a cell phone. For drivers 16 – 30 years old, distracted driving accounts for more deaths and injuries than any other type of accident. In a study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, drivers are distracted nearly one half of the entire time they’re behind the wheel, and about 2/3 of drivers use a cell phone while driving.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving in Texas can be thought of as a form of “inattention blindness” – a situation in which you may look at something, but you don’t necessarily see it because your attention is consumed elsewhere. Any time you are behind the wheel of a car, and you are performing another function besides paying strict attention to the road, you are technically a distracted driver. Distracted driving has four different types:
- Visual (watching something else other than the road)
- Auditory (listening to music, a cell phone conversation, or a conversation in your car)
- Manual (playing with the radio, texting on your cell phone, eating/drinking, etc.)
- Cognitive (thinking about things other than the driving tasks at hand)
Most distractions are not confined to just one of these types; distracted drivers typically commit a combination of distracted behaviors at the same time. Even drivers who use a hands-free device are not immune to the dangers of distracted driving. By listening to another person and giving your thought, effort, and attention to carrying on a conversation, you’re far more likely to miss blatantly obvious situations on the road.
Texas Distracted Driving Prevention Tips
- Keep your cell phone out of reach. If you get a phone call or a text message when your phone is nearby, you’re far more likely to reach for it, if only to see who the call or message is from. By keeping your phone out of sight, and out of mind, with the ringer on silent or vibrate, you’ll eliminate at least one distraction temptation.
- Forget about the hands-free device. Giving active attention to another conversation takes away from the attention that should be paid to the road.
- Keep the music low. Keep your radio turned to a lower volume to ensure that you don’t miss critical warnings or traffic situations.
- Don’t drive angry. Clear your mind before you get behind the wheel, and if you find yourself too emotional to think clearly, pull over.
- Drive rested! Driver fatigue makes it much harder to properly judge distance and utilize sharp reaction time. In fact, sleepy drivers have been shown to be just as dangerous as drunk drivers – so never drive when you’re tired.
- Keep the food out of the car. Avoid picking up and fiddling with any objects – your hands should stay on the wheel at all times.