For many Americans, especially those under 40, using a cell phone while driving seems perfectly normal. And considering that there are more than 236 million cell phone users, it’s safe to say that there are many on the road. But is it safe? Statistics say no. Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that more than 25 percent of all police-reported vehicular accidents are caused by this behavior.
The problem? A driver using a phone is a distracted driver. Although many people claim that “multi-tasking” has no effect on concentration, tests have repeatedly proven this false. For instance, one University of Utah study revealed that a young person on the phone has about the same reaction speed as someone over the age of 70. Other research and highway law enforcement observation commonly compare drive-and-chat performance to drunk driving. Excessive slowness, inattentiveness to traffic conditions, and lane-to-lane weaving are all dead giveaways.
The consequences, too, are predictably similar. Phone-distracted motorists hit more potholes, miss more warning signs, and generally fail more often to process their surroundings, compared to alert, fully-focused drivers. The problem is most serious when pedestrians are involved. By law, a car must yield the right of way to all pedestrians at all times, but when a driver’s attention is diverted, this rule is one of the first to be forgotten.
No Hands? No Better!
Many cell phone users believe that hands-free devices remove the dangers of distracted driving. However, this is typically not true, as it isn’t the phone that causes mishaps, but rather it’s the conversation itself. Simply listening and processing information takes a driver’s attention off the road. And if it’s an especially important conversation – a pivotal business discussion, bad news from home, or a heated argument, for instance – there’s likely to be little attention left for safe, sensible driving.
Car makers seemingly attempt to rectify the problem, installing voice-activated “intercom”-style phone systems as built-in equipment, but in reality, these types of systems can exacerbate the issue. Although these motorists may not have to worry about fumbling through pockets for a ringing phone, or dropping the phone in the middle of a conversation, the distraction still remains, as long as someone’s on the line.
Safety Tips for Car Trips
NHTSA studies project that cell phone use will cause about 1,000 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in the next year. What can the average driver do to minimize the risk? Independent insurance agents, who are quite familiar with these hazards, offer the following suggestions:
- Never send, receive, or read text messages while at the wheel.
- Before starting your trip, put your phone within easy reach.
- If you must take a call, don’t let your conversation ramble. Keep it short and to the point.
- Load your phone’s “speed dial” memory with numbers you’ll need; if you must make a call, this will allow you to avoid keying in as you drive.
- Don’t get into emotional conversations en route.
- It’s never a good idea to use your phone while driving, but If it’s night, if the weather’s bad, if you have kids in the car, it’s especially dangerous. In these cases, it’s best to turn off your phone until you can pull over and use it safely.
- If possible, have a passenger make or take the call.
Many insurers give discounts for completing safe-driving classes that offer tips like these. See if you qualify! Call Knapton, Reade, & Woods Insurance Agency in Hillsboro, NH, today at 603-464-3422 or submit our contact form and we can review your auto insurance coverage together. For additional safety tips and other valuable resources, please read our blog, or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.