Distracted driving: Something we can all live without

  • Published
  • By Eric T. Hoehn
  • 88th Air Base Wing Safety Office

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Even a very brief driver distraction can have catastrophic consequences.

A vehicle traveling at 60 mph covers 176 feet in 2 seconds, nearly the length of five schoolbuses end to end. The Department of Transportation provides some very interesting information on the subject:

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual — taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing

Distracted driving is any nondriving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task and increase the crashing risk. While all distractions can endanger driver safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types.

Other distracting activities include:

  • Using a cellphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a PDA or navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Changing the radio station, CD or MP3 player

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration):

  • Every year, nearly 20 percent of all crashes involve some type of distraction.
  • Between 2012 and 2019, more than 26,000 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. An estimated 400,000 are hurt each year.
  • 10% of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of distracted drivers.
  • At any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or manipulating electronic devices, a number that has held steady since 2010.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent (at 55 mph) of driving the length of an entire football field blind.
  • Headset-cellphone use is not substantially safer than handheld use.
  • Driving while using a cellphone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.

We must all do our best to eliminate sources of driver distraction. Learn more about distracted driving by visiting the Department of Transportation website: www.distraction.gov.