Reading emails and texting are at the top of the list of what’s considered distracted driving, but there are a number of things we do while driving that are not safe or smart. Eating, personal grooming, and reaching back to referee an argument between the kids can distract us long enough for something terrible to happen.
Distracted driving is a growing culprit in accidents, despite the increasing availability of high-tech safety features like automatic braking, lane departure, and blind spot monitoring.
AAA reports that 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2013 involved distracted driving – more than 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries – roughly the same as those due to driving under the influence.
All too many of those deaths are teens and other new drivers, who are both inexperienced behind the wheel and more dialed in to mobile technology than their parents.
According to a recent report by the Liberty Mutual insurance company, teens consider navigation and music apps as “utilities,” which dilutes the perception of the dangers related to their use while driving. While 41 percent of teens responding to the survey state that using navigation apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, 58 percent admit to using them on the road. More teens (64 percent) say using music apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, but nearly half (46 percent) still admit to using them in the car.
The new Ford Sync and GM MyLink systems have parental controls that prevent the vehicle from operating until passenger seat belts are buckled, limit vehicle speed, and limit the maximum volume from the audio system.
Reading an email or sending a text only takes a few seconds, but when you are traveling 55 mph, a few seconds is long enough to drive the length of several football fields. However, the danger of distracted driving is not limited to our mobile devices. Using the on-board navigation map, temperature controls, or hands-free telephone system can mean taking your eyes off the road long enough for it to be dangerous.
In another distracted driving study, by Netquote, more drivers admitted to picking their noses while driving (65.9 percent) than admitted to reading something on a device (59.9 percent) or texting (53.8 percent). The same survey by Netquote also shows more of us admit to eating in the car (51.9 percent) or putting on or taking off clothing (43.1 percent) than kissing (42.7 percent), quite a bit more than those admitted to engaging in “sexual activity” (24.2 percent).
Speaking of sex, a recent survey of college students in North Dakota found that 33 percent of men and nine percent of women engaged in “some sort” of sexual activity while driving, and either letting go of the steering wheel or drifting from their lane.
So what else do we do that sensible people would consider stupid?
According to Netquote: applying make-up or deodorant (20.0 percent), flossing our teeth (7.1 percent), tweezing our eyebrows or facial hair (4.6 percent), shaving our faces or legs (2.8 percent), and putting in contact lenses (2.6 percent).
That same survey of more than 2,000 U.S. drivers also asked about other bad driving habits, such as driving with a suspended license (13.6 percent), driving without insurance (27.8 percent), and driving before you have a license or permit (33.6 percent).
It’s also staggering to note that nearly half the respondents (46.8 percent) admitted to driving drunk or “buzzed,” since about one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. in any given year are alcohol-related.