There’s no limit to the possible distractions for a driver on the road: 70% of Americans admit to eating while driving, and 80% to drinking behind the wheel. Drivers also turn to interact with children in the back seat, flip through CDs, look for items in a purse or bag, light cigarettes, and engage in many other activities they may not even think of as distractions.
These distractions have long created risks on the road, but the risk has increased dramatically with the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that tasks such as reaching for a phone, dialing or texting tripled the risk of getting into an accident.
As drunk driving accidents and fatalities decline, distracted driving accidents, injuries, and deaths are on the rise. In 2015, 10% of traffic fatalities involved one or more distracted drivers. So it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes distracted driving seriously.
DOT Distracted Driving Guidelines
NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind says the NHTSA has “long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive.” Indeed, that message has been spread far and wide, with television advertising campaigns, movie theater public service announcements, and even widespread legislation and ordinances designed to cut down on the use of mobile devices in traffic. But drivers are still engaging in risky behaviors with their phones and other devices.
Recognizing that fact, the NHTSA is working on voluntary guidelines that will reduce the risks associated with these inherently risky behaviors. The second phase of that effort, which is ongoing now, aims to encourage designers and manufacturers of such devices to incorporate features that reduce the risks of use on the road.
Mobile Device Safety Features Proposed
The guidelines call for mobile devices to either pair easily with in-vehicle systems to take advantage of the safety features set forth in the first phase of the effort or to include a “Driver Mode” that would conform to the same standards. A key feature would be a “lock out” function that would prevent such risky actions as:
- Playing video
- Displaying certain types of graphics
- Automatically scrolling text
- Manual text entry for some functions such as texting and internet browser use
- Displaying certain types of content, such as books and social media feeds
The report says that technology is currently in the works that will allow the device to reliably determine whether the user is the driver or a passenger.
Take Precautions Against Distracted Driving
Devices that eliminate some of the risks may contribute to a decline in distracted driving accidents and injuries, but a real solution requires conscientious drivers. When you’re behind the wheel:
- Be conscious of the risk. Even at 30 mph, you cover 220 feet in five seconds. That’s a lot of room for a person to step into the street, another driver to swerve, an animal to dart in front of you or other hazards to appear.
- Plan ahead. If you need to program GPS, send a text to the person you’re meeting or ask for an address, do it before you get on the road.
- Prioritize. Much of the activity that leads to distracted driving accidents just isn’t urgent enough to take the risk. Stop to consider whether you really need to send that text. If it’s truly urgent, consider pulling over.
Of course, no matter how careful you are, you can still become the victim of someone else’s distracted driving. If you’ve suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence on the road, call 904-251-1111 or 800-251-1111 to speak with an auto accident attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.