What is Distracted Driving?
The U.S. Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as “any activity that can divert a person’s attention away from driving.” As you can probably imagine, a large amount of common activities fall under this umbrella, including texting, eating and drinking, talking to other passengers, or fiddling with the radio or an MP3 player. Of course, some of these activities are far more dangerous than others. In fact, researchers have found that one of the main reasons for texting to be so dangerous is because of the way it saps our attention. When you’re texting, you’re devoting your attention to visual, manual, and cognitive cues. You’ll notice that these are the exact same type of cues that are used when driving. While talking to other passengers might take away your attention at an inopportune moment once in a while, it is significantly more likely to occur when texting.
Unfortunately, not many people recognize distracted driving when they see it. Or, at least, they don’t see it as the problem that it really is. In a 2015 survey, roughly one-third of the drivers interviewed admitted to being distracted at some point. In addition, nearly three-quarters of those same drivers admitted that they had seen others become distracted while driving. When people think of drinking and driving, it’s easier to see the risks inherent to the behavior. Conversely, people don’t typically think of texting while driving as being something on nearly the same level of danger. The truth, however, is that the average text can have a huge impact on a person’s driving. Researchers have found that the average texting session can last upwards of five seconds. If driving at an average of 55 mph, this equates to driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
Unfortunately, because of its prevalence in American driving culture, not many people consider texting and driving to be as big of a deal as it actually is. Researchers have found that the largest number of distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents are in the teen age group. This age group also happens to be the most prolific text messengers while they are driving. When researchers looked at a slightly older group, those in their 20s, they found similar issues. Those in their 20s were slightly less than 25% of all the people involved in fatal crashes for the year 2014, yet they represented more than 25% of distracted drivers, and roughly 40% of drivers that were on the cell phones at the time of a crash. These statistics are startling, but at least they provide us with some insight into how common distracted driving has become. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that more people are looking for West Virginia distracted driving accidents lawyers than ever before.
Perhaps what is most troubling about these statistics is how quickly they’re becoming outdated. When researchers studied the popularity of texting and driving in 2014, they founded that roughly 30% more people reported owning a mobile device than in 2011. It’s only natural to assume that this number will continue to grow as more people get access to affordable mobile devices. Interestingly, researchers found that the reason for this increase in ownership isn’t actually due to young adults, but rather those over the age of 40. It would seem that as more people adopt cell phones, older people become more willing to adopt the technology as well.
In fact, researchers have found that distracted walking has become just as much of an issue as its driving counterpart, albeit far less dangerous. Pew Research found that more than half of all cell phone users have, at some point in their lives, either been the perpetrator or victim of a distracted walking encounter. Even though you may not think you’re in any particular danger while walking and texting, that’s not exactly true. If you aren’t paying attention and walk into oncoming traffic, you risk serious injury to yourself even if you expect the other person to be more attentive. Of course, in this type of situation, you’ll want to speak with a Parkersburg personal injury lawyer, but your first plan should always be to travel safely.
Know the Law
While each state has its own laws concerning distracted driving, we’re going to take a look at West Virginia specifically. If you want avoid the need for a Parkersburg personal injury lawyer, then it might be a good idea to brush up on your state driving laws. In West Virginia, there is a ban on handheld devices for drivers of all ages, in addition to a ban on texting for drivers of all ages. Interestingly, West Virginia also has a ban on cell phones for what they refer to as novice drivers. A novice driver, by West Virginia’s definition, is any driver with a learner’s permit or an intermediate license.
It is worth noting that each of these state laws is considered to be a primary law in West Virginia. As a primary law, a police officer can ticket a driver for the infraction even if there is no other law violation. The fact that these laws are so heavily enforced is indicative of the serious threat that they pose, not just to the distracted driver, but to other civilians and passengers as well.
While studying this rising phenomenon, researchers found that drivers visibly manipulating handheld devices had almost doubled between the years 2013 and 2014. In addition, young drivers were overwhelmingly more likely to be distracted by handheld devices while driving than their older counterparts.
Steps to Take
If you find yourself routinely partaking in risky behavior while driving, then one of the most important things you can do is limit potential distractions before getting in your car. If you frequently text and drive, then simply turn off your phone while you’re in the car. Even if you lead a particularly busy life, it will be far more damaging to your career if you’re dead than if you’re temporarily unavailable while traveling between your office and your home. If you think that you can get away with a hands-free device as an alternative to traditional cell phones, then you might want to think again. While it’s true that you won’t be violating any state laws with a hands-free device, it still poses a significant risk to your driving ability. Researchers have found that simply maintaining a constant conversation can seriously impact a driver’s ability to pay attention to their surroundings. Even if you won’t get a ticket, it could still result in a serious injury.
For those curious as to why distracted driving varies from state-to-state, that’s because of the way jurisdiction works in Congress. Although there have been several different laws that have been proposed to combat distracted driving, more support is needed from regular people for any action to be taken. Until then, states like West Virginia need to design the relevant laws themselves. Hopefully, after reading here about the dangers of distracted driving, you’ll be more aware of it in the future. Even if you’re not someone that regularly drives while texting, you can at least keep an eye out for friends and family members that do. If you can change even just one person’s habits and make them a safer driver, you’ll have made the roads safer for everyone.