Distracted Driving Awareness Month and 2017 Scholarship Winner
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and with that comes the opportunity to educate communities around the state and the country of the dangerous consequences associated with distracted driving. Although distracted driving has received plenty of attention in recent years, this attention has not prevented this behavior, which is all too frequently engaged in by people across different age categories and levels of driving experience.
The Chaffin Luhana Foundation recently held a scholarship contest to reward an outstanding student for their dedication to the issue of distracted driving based on their submission of a personal essay. The Foundation selected Karen Sandoval, a high school senior at Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colorado, as the scholarship winner. Karen wrote about her personal experience working with JJ’s Light Foundation, which provides financial support and counseling resources to youth who have lost a parent to distracted driving. In her essay submission, Karen wrote about a week-long distracted driving awareness campaign that she helped organize with JJ’s Light Foundation at her high school. Please read Karen’s essay to learn more about JJ’s Light Foundation here.
Given that teens are so frequently involved in distracted driving accidents, the Firm and the Foundation hope to raise awareness about the dangers of this risky behavior and the devastating consequences distracted driving accidents have.
Looking away from the road for just a couple of seconds can result in a significant accident. You may cause serious injuries or fatalities to others or yourself. Distracted driving is always dangerous. Many teens have been personally impacted by distracted driving accidents. To combat this issue, however, many more teens are stepping up to teach others about the dangers of distracted driving.
We have created a distracted driving infographic to help build awareness and allow people to easily visualize how serious this issue is.
Take a look at what a simple distraction is capable of:
Measuring Cognitive Distractions
As the number of distracted driving accidents across the country has grown, many agencies have dedicated themselves to the study and publication of information associated with the perils of distracted driving. Along with legislation promoted across various states and advocacy efforts at the federal level, the purpose of this activity is to curb distracted driving.
Distraction occurs in any situation in which a driver takes their attention away from the task of driving and focuses on something else. Although texting while driving has received a large amount of attention because of the frequency with which it occurs, it is certainly not the only form of distraction that can cause drivers to lose their focus on the road and end up in a serious accident.
A “distraction-affected accident” is any crash in which a driver is reported to have been distracted at the time of the accident. According to recent data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- More than 3,100 individuals were killed in 2014 alone in accidents tied to distracted drivers.
- An estimated 480,000 injuries occurred in accidents due to distracted drivers.
- More than 520 non-occupants were fatally injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2014 alone.
- 10% of drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 involved in fatal accidents were distracted at the time of the crash.
These numbers show that distracted driving is still a major problem throughout the country.
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that 2016 was the deadliest year for vehicle accidents in a decade. With more than 40,000 fatalities, distracted driving continues to be a leading contributor to deadly accidents.
There are three primary types of distractions that can pull a driver’s attention away from the road and cause an accident. These are cognitive, visual, and manual distractions.
Cognitive distractions are any situation in which a driver’s mind is not focused on driving. Being preoccupied with work-related issues or thinking about your weekend plans can be classified as cognitive distractions. Typically, cognitive distractions can include visual and manual factors as well, which can make these the most dangerous.
Visual distractions involve pulling the driver’s focus away from the road ahead to look at something else such as children in the back seat, a GPS device or looking for a specific building such as a restaurant.
Manual distractions on the other hand, requires an individual to take their hands off the wheel for any purpose such as looking for something in the car, texting, making a phone call, and adjusting the radio. Other forms of distractions include:
- Talking to other passengers in the car
- Eating and/or drinking
- Adjusting the GPS/climate controls
A new study reports that drivers can experience what’s known as a “hangover effect”. This occurs when the driver’s mind remains distracted for up to 27 seconds after using any voice or text features on their cell phone. This includes, but is not limited to: text messaging, making or receiving phone calls, viewing or posting to social media, checking email, and taking photos.
Many drivers tend to think it’s safe to use a cell phone while stopped at a red light, at a stop sign, or even while their vehicle is parked, but this hangover effect still plays a significant role whether the car is moving or stationary.
Currently, 46 states and Washington DC prohibit text messaging while driving, but only 14 states and Washington DC prohibit phone calls and driving. With thousands of fatalities occurring every year due to distracted driving, additional states need to enforce stricter laws to protect motorists and pedestrians from these types of avoidable accidents.
Age and Distracted Driving Behavior
In a recent study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explored behaviors and attitudes of more than 6,000 drivers across the country. In this study, 16-24 year old drivers were more likely to be involved in an accident while using a cell phone.
Nearly 6% of respondents indicated they had been involved in a crash in the previous year and another 7% admitted to being involved in a near accident. Men were more likely to be involved in near-crash or crash incidences than women and younger drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 had the highest incidence of a crash or near-crash experience.
A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety involving more than 2,500 drivers identified that millennial drivers are the most likely to engage in distracted driving behavior. According to this study, 88% of drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 acknowledged participating in risky behavior like running red lights, speeding or texting and driving in the previous 30 days. Compare this to almost 70% of drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 and just under 80% for drivers between the ages of 25 and 39.
Millennials were also twice as likely to send an email or a text message while driving at nearly twice the rate of any other driver. Nearly 12% of millennial drivers felt that it was acceptable to drive up to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in a school zone while compared with just over 5% for other drivers.
The Negative Impact of Distracted Driving on Your Brain
Many people feel that distracted driving behavior doesn’t necessarily increase their chances of being involved in an accident because of the myth of multitasking. Unfortunately, however, the human brain is not equipped to perform two tasks at the same time, particularly where one of the tasks requires complete focus. Rather the brain handles things in sequential order, managing one and then moving on to the next.
“Multitasking” can significantly impair a driver’s performance. Drivers may not be able to visually scan their environment for potential hazards when they are competing in two attention-demanding tasks at the same time such as trying to drive a car and having a conversation with a passenger. Research shows that even pedestrians who do not effectively monitor their surroundings while talking or texting on a cellphone are more likely to be involved in an accident.
Drivers making use of their cell phone may not be able to see other objects such as nearby vehicles, pedestrians, animals, or stop lights/signs.
The average time it takes for an individual to remove their focus from the road while texting is almost five seconds. While that might seem like a brief period of time, if you’re traveling at 55 miles an hour, that’s long enough to cover the entire length of a football field blindfolded. If you think about this in perspective of the number of obstacles or individuals you could encounter during that time, distracted driving is always extremely dangerous.
Distracted Driving Increases Insurance Rates
Distracted driving has caused so many accidents, injuries, and fatalities that new statistics show that car insurance rates are increasing across the country. Drivers in 2017 pay an average of $926 a year for car insurance which represents more than a 15% increase since 2011. According to insurance experts, teenagers who engage in distracted driving are some of the biggest culprits of this bad habit and this has led to industry increases in insurance premiums for everyone.
Accident victims can suffer catastrophic injuries and may never be able to fully recover or go back to work after a serious accident caused by distracted driving. A victim of a distracted driving accident may have their life impacted by some of the following:
- Ongoing pain
- Reliance on pain medications
- Costly medical bills
- Difficulty enjoying daily activities
- Inability to return to work / lost wages
- Potentially higher car insurance rates
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in a Distracted Driving Accident
If you suspect that another driver’s distracted driving caused or contributed to a car accident in which you sustained significant injuries, you should consult with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer sooner rather than later. Identifying a lawyer who has extensive experience litigating distracted driving accidents can give you peace of mind that someone is fighting hard on your behalf. You should not leave it up to your insurance company to compensate your fairly.
While obtaining legal counsel is important after an auto accident, seeking medical treatment is still the most important thing to do. Do not hold off on obtaining treatment and recovering even if you lack the proper insurance. Timely and necessary medical treatment is important to your potential claim and may affect the value of your potential settlement.
If you are negotiating directly with the other party’s insurance company, be aware that they may try to pressure you into accepting a settlement early on. This is often not in your best interest and why it is necessary to retain a law firm who can help you.
Be Part of the Solution
Distracted driving is a critical problem in the U.S. and you as a driver and passenger can be a part of the solution. Commit to putting your phone away or turning it on airplane mode when you’re in the car so you’re not tempted to check it constantly. It is also important to model good behaviors for new drivers, other passengers, and children.
There are some great apps as well which can help keep your focus on the road and not on your phone. Here are two to check out:
- Sends notifications to parents
- Blocks text messaging
- Blocks calls
- Tracks safe miles driven
- Rewards safe driving
- Shares location
- Sends notifications to parents
- Blocks text messaging
- Blocks calls
- Tracks safe miles driven
- Shares location
Take the Pledge
We urge you to sign our anti-distracted driving pledge, then take a photo of it and share it across your social media. Don’t forget to use #DDPledge and tag @ChaffinLuhana. Show your support and let’s help put an end to distracted driving.