In 2008 in the state of Texas, one person was killed in a motor vehicle crash every two hours and 32 minutes. There was a crash reported every 72 seconds that year. And of the death toll of 3,468 people, 975 of those lives were claimed in an accident involving a driver who was under the influence of alcohol.
It used to be that driving under the influence (DUI) was one of the major contributors to motor vehicle crashes, but the rapid increase in technology available to today’s driver and the fast-paced world in which we live has created a new leading cause of motor vehicle accidents — distracted driving.
Distracted driving describes a number of activities a driver may be doing while simultaneously trying to operate a motor vehicle: eating, drinking, changing a radio station, changing CDs, selecting music on an MP3 player, using a GPS, putting on make up and talking/texting on a cell phone.
Nationwide, 6,000 people are killed in accidents involving distracted driving annually, and another 500,000 are injured. Currently, 29 states have laws restricting texting and driving.
More than 70 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 admit talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, and research shows that even using a hands-free device places a driver — and their potential victims — in danger.
“There is a difference between talking on the phone and talking to a passenger in your vehicle,” said Matthew Davis, M.D., trauma medical director at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple. “Your passenger can actually alert you to changes in traffic and give you enough time to respond accordingly.
“Additionally, studies show that when we are using a cell phone, it forces the brain to multitask, something it can’t do safely while driving,” Dr. Davis continued. “It doesn’t matter if you are texting without looking, your ability to focus on the task of driving is diminished, impairing not only your driving performance, but your ability to pick up and process driving cues.”
It is estimated that at any given time of the day, 11 percent of drivers on the road are talking on a cell phone, which has been shown to decrease the driver’s reaction time by as much as 18 percent— almost the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit.
Driving Under the Influence
2008 Texas Department of Transportation statistics show that driving under the influence accounted for more than 600 driver fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. Nearly 200 passengers in vehicles driven by DUI drivers were killed, in addition to 50 pedestrians and pedalcyclists struck by vehicles driven by DUI drivers.
Ways to Stay Safe on the Road
- Silence your cell phone or place it in the rear seat/trunk while driving so that you are not tempted to answer it.
- Set up a voice mail message that explains you are driving, and encourage callers to do the same.
- Don’t text while driving. Your chances of having a crash increase as much as 23 times depending on driving conditions.
- If you have to take a call or text, pull over and park your car. In intersections, be wary of pedestrians trying to beat the light and crossing while traffic begins moving.
- Set a nighttime driving curfew for your teen driver. The later into the evening they drive, their chances of becoming involved in an accident increase up to five times.
- Set a zero tolerance policy for talking and texting while driving – with your teen driver as well as yourself!