Have you seen all the headlines recently about one-car accidents where the driver goes into a ditch or hits a tree? In many of those instances, distracted driving is to blame. In fact, driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the Michigan State Police, there are three types of distracted driving: visual – taking your eyes off the road, manual – taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing. Drivers listed texting, driving while tired, personal grooming, talking on a cell phone and reaching for items while driving as their top distractions in one survey. Eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading, using navigation systems and changing radio stations are other common diversions.
As of July 1, 2010, Michigan law prohibits texting while driving. For a first offense, motorists are fined $100. Subsequent offenses cost $200. Fines for texting vary from state to state, with the lowest being $20 in California, and the highest being $10,000 in Alaska. That’s quite a disparity, but fines don’t seem to be curbing the issue in Michigan. In one survey, 96 percent of drivers say they have texted while driving. However, according to a statewide telephone survey, 53 percent said they would stop texting if points were added to their records, in addition to the fines.
The statistics show distracted driving incidents are causing more accidents each year. According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 7,516 distracted driving crashes in 2015, which resulted in 28 deaths and 3,472 injuries. A cell phone was involved in 753 of those accidents. The number of deaths and accidents rose significantly from 2014, with 14 deaths and 5,353 accidents that year.
So, what can you do to make sure you are more focused on driving?
- Don’t send or read texts, access the Internet, or watch videos on your phone
- Put on makeup, or brush your hair, at home before you leave
- Know how to operate everything in the car before you take off
- Preset the radio, GPS, climate control before you start moving
- Avoid alcohol and medications that can make you tired
- If taking a long trip, schedule breaks every 100 miles or every two hours
- Hide your cell phone, so you aren’t tempted to pick it up
With all the gadgets out there, it’s very easy to let your eyes, hands and mind wander. We not only have to make sure we stay focused, but we need to watch out for other drivers who may be distracted.