Posted in Distracted Driving on March 27, 2018
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration says that nearly 3,500 people lost their lives in distracted driving-related accidents in the U.S. in 2015 alone. The organization defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.”
In addition, nearly 400,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes that year. To make matters worse, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while behind the wheel during daylight hours in the U.S., which means any vehicle you pass or drive near could be capable of causing a serious accident due to its driver being distracted or preoccupied with something other than safely maneuvering their vehicle.
Most drivers associate distracted driving with cell phone usage—specifically, texting while driving—and for good reason, as it’s one of the most common causes of drivers losing their focus on the task at hand. However, it isn’t the only cause of distracted driving.
At Matt Hardin Law, our Nashville auto accident lawyers know that there are many other common causes of distracted driving-related crashes, and all of them can increase the risk of accidents for both the drivers who engage in those behaviors and other people on Tennessee’s roadways.
Keep These Distracted Driving Accident Causes in Mind
Ideally, drivers should only take their eyes off the road in front of them to briefly check their mirrors or their speed. Otherwise, they should keep their sights fixed straight ahead at all times. In addition, they should also shut out mental distractions, as distraction can occur even when the eyes remain fixated on the roadway.
Unfortunately, a significant number of drivers violate safe driving and distraction-free driving principles every day due to a variety of reasons, including these five overlooked causes of distracted driving accidents:
Daydreaming – Although driving is a highly complex task that requires significant experience, fine motor skills, and the ability to accurately judge both speed and distance, drivers quickly become accustomed to it—especially when they’re traveling along familiar routes. That can lead to them daydreaming or experiencing the effects of highway hypnosis. If you’ve ever driven a short, medium, or long distance and not remembered some or all of the trip, chances are you were under the “spell” of highway hypnosis.
Solution – It can be difficult to avoid being a victim of highway hypnosis and daydreaming when you’re behind the wheel, as its natural for humans to look for other sources of stimulation when they’re completing routine tasks. Experts recommend using air conditioning to keep the temperature inside your vehicle slightly colder than you’re used to and to always sit up as straight as possible to keep you alert, awake, and focused on your commute.
Looking at a map or GPS function on your phone – Smartphones are significant sources of distraction for drivers when they’re behind the wheel, but sometimes the distractions are caused by things that are related to the trip itself. GPS, maps, and live traffic reporting apps can all save drivers significant time and frustration when they’re on the road, but they’re also highly distracting, as they force drivers to take their eyes and minds off the task of driving for seconds at a time.
Solution – Almost all GPS, map, and traffic reporting apps have both voice activation and feedback functions. Using those functions means you won’t have to constantly look back and forth between the road and your phone, eliminating a major source of distraction and significantly reducing your chances of being involved in an accident.
Events occurring outside your vehicle – Whether it’s a traffic stop, a construction project, or a recent accident, it’s easy for drivers to be distracted by things occurring outside of their vehicles. In fact, there’s a term for drivers turning their heads to stare at accident scenes: rubbernecking. It’s important to remember that distractions don’t always come from inside the vehicle, and outside influences can be just as, if not more distracting than things near you.
Solution – It’s human nature to want to look at things that are unusual or out of the ordinary—especially if they are surrounded by bright, flashing lights or loud noises. Ultimately, avoiding the increased accident risks that come with rubbernecking or looking outside your vehicle at anything other than the road ahead comes down to self-control and willpower. Reminding yourself of the dangers of taking your eyes and mind off the road can help you remain focused on what’s most important.
Emotional conversations – Studies show that adding more occupants to vehicles increases the risk of accidents, especially when drivers frequently engage them in conversation. Although talking or carrying on a conversation may not seem distracting, it utilizes many parts of the brain that otherwise would be dedicated solely to the task of driving. But simply avoiding this isn’t feasible for a significant percentage of drivers, as they may frequently travel with spouses, children, and other family members and friends.
Solution – The risks associated with driving with others inside your vehicle increase when conversations are emotional or argumentative. Do your best to resolve personal disputes before leaving home, and if tensions arise during a trip, pull over to discuss the issue rather than continuing to drive. You should also stop to address high-stress situations involving children, especially if you feel the need to frequently check on them while you’re driving.
Complacency or sense of invulnerability – Statistically, almost everyone will be involved in an accident at some point in their lives. But they may go many years—often decades—before experiencing their first accident or being involved in an additional accident. That means that drivers can quickly become complacent and “loosen up” when it comes to staying 100-percent focused on the road and the task at hand. That can lead to them falling victim to a wide variety of distractions, including blatant ones like eating, putting on makeup, or even reading behind the wheel.
Solution – There are two ways to fight the risks of complacency: take as many steps as possible to avoid an accident or injury, and always keep the dangers of driving in mind when you enter your vehicle. Accomplishing the first of those tasks involves keeping your vehicle well-maintained and following basic safety guidelines, including turning on your headlights during times of low visibility and always wearing your seat belt. The second involves remaining “present” at all times when you’re driving and being as alert and cautious as possible, no matter where you’re going or how far you’re traveling.
Were You Hurt in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver?
Distracted driving is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous things people on Tennessee’s roadways can experience or be a victim of. In 2018, there are no shortage of distractions that compete for drivers’ attention, including built-in entertainment options and navigation features in a wide variety of modern vehicles. It’s up to all drivers to do their best to resist distractions, including both commonly known and less obvious distractions.
If you or someone you love was hurt in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. Get in touch with the Nashville auto accident lawyers at Matt Hardin Law today. We have 30 years of experience assisting victims like you, and we know what it takes to win. Dial (615) 200-1111 or complete a free online form.