In 2016, distracted drivers killed 3,450 people, down slightly from the 3,477 killed in 2015. Although legislative efforts continue to curb distracted driving induced by technology, cell phone use behind the wheel persists. In Wisconsin and 46 other states, texting while driving is illegal. Throughout the month of April, various safety organizations work towards shedding light on the issue and promoting safe driving.
An underreported epidemic
According to a recent study by Zendrive, more than 69 million drivers use their phones while behind the wheel every day. That figure is significantly higher than the previously reported National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figure of 660,000 distracted drivers. In fact, distracted driving is a contributing factor in 26 percent of all collisions.
The study found drivers used their phones the most during the afternoon and evening rush hour. But at any time of the day, 40 percent of drivers used their phone at least once while driving. The amount of time spent on the phone averaged nearly two minutes of every hour spent behind the wheel, equivalent to driving 1.2 miles while blindfolded at a speed of 55 mph.
Efforts to reduce distracted driving
To reduce distracted driving deaths, the NHTSA launched the fifth “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” social media ad campaign to promote safe driving. The ads reiterate the dangers of technology use behind the wheel and encourage drivers to stow devices until they reach their destination. The National Safety Council (NSC) is also offering a free distracted driving course.
The allure of our devices
Contributing to the problem is the seemingly irresistible hold devices have over drivers. A device alert triggers an overwhelming desire to read whatever comes up on the screen, which often invites a response. While GPS and other road apps prove useful, rising fatalities related to increased device use behind the wheel cannot be ignored.
Take a few moments to review your own driving habits and commit to focusing only on driving. The thought of a traffic ticket for violating the ban on distracted driving may not seem very threatening, but remember lives are at stake.