Much debate can be had as to what is considered the most distracting activity while driving, but the truth remains that talking on the phone still accounts for many accidents. Cell phone distraction does not only refer to the physical task of driving one-handed and holding the phone with the other, but the mental distraction as one focuses on conversation rather than the road. With so many apps available on modern phones such as texting, videos, GPS capability and news alerts, more and more information is directed at the driver, taking attention away from the primary task at hand. It has been shown that distractions in a vehicle cause slower reaction time to traffic alerts, untimely lane changes, misjudgment of vehicle speed, and inability to judge distances between cars.
While it’s commonplace to accuse the easily distracted teenager, we admit that, as adults, we are also at fault. Ask any adult today and you’ll hear this: “I admit it – I passed right by the place I wanted to go because I was talking with someone at the same time.” Or, maybe you’ve heard this: “My mailbox is at the end of a short road near my house. I received a call while I was driving by the mailbox to get my mail. The next thing I knew, I found myself parked in my driveway, and I don’t remember getting there.”
Slightly better than operating the wheel with just one hand, Bluetooth technology with its hands-free option is still not off the hook in the distraction department. Many drivers who might pull off to the side of the road to take a call on a hand-held phone neglect to take this precaution when using a hands-free device. There is a tendency toward overconfidence because both hands are on the wheel. On the cusp of technology is the process of developing a technique that detects drivers who are using cell phones through acoustic sounds generated from the car stereo. And, Sprint Drive First for teens is an app with cell phone-blocking technology which prohibits receiving phone signals while the vehicle is in motion over 10 miles per hour. The app also automatically routes calls to voicemail and silences any incoming alerts and texts. Coupled with those developments, however, we must also rely on our own common sense.
What can you do to minimize distraction and lower your chances of being an accident victim related to cell phone use, or finding yourself in a costly lawsuit? If you make a phone call to someone, ask that person if he or she is driving. If so, offer to call back later. You don’t want to be the distraction that causes an accident. When you have an incoming call, make it standard practice to pull over to take the call no matter where you are or how much traffic is on the road. More importantly, continue to inspire teens and passengers with your example.
Most people can multitask, but the majority of us are unable to do two things effectively at one time, and anytime a driver’s attention is compromised, the potential to become a party in a lawsuit is present. The bottom line comes back to what most of us were taught in Driver’s Ed class, and what we have so easily forgotten over the years: Keep your eyes on the road at all times and pay attention to what you are doing.