In a November 2016 New York Times interview, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called the latest set of 2016 highway fatality statistics a “crisis that needs to be addressed now.” The facts look grim. In the first six months of 2016 alone, the number of highway fatalities jumped 10.4% above the same number from 2015.
17,775 people died in car accidents across the U.S. in the first half of 2016. Many accidents undoubtedly occurred because of distracted driving. That’s a substantial increase during an era where even our laws try and prevent us from getting distracted behind the wheel by restricting us from texting while driving. The dangers of distracted driving go far beyond texting and driving, however. We need to look at every aspect of being distracted by technology and not just the process of using our hands.
There are three components that allow us to become distracted while behind the wheel—physical interactions, visual interactions, and mental stimulants. Physical interactions include texting, using a smartphone app to manually scroll through text, eating breakfast while driving to work, or taking the time to apply makeup while stuck in traffic. Visual interactions include keeping one eye on your phone’s social media feed while driving or seeing a new store on the roadside that grabs your attention.
Mental stimulants can include activities like paying too much attention to a conversation that’s going on inside the car, getting lost in thought regarding a personal situation you’re dealing with, day dreaming, being overtired and getting sleepy, or concentrating on a phone app more than the task of driving. Audio stimulants may cause distractions as well, but for the most part humans are more equipped to handle audio distractions than other types of distractions.
Many lawmakers, driver safety professionals, auto engineers, and smartphone software developers feel that most distractions behind the wheel happen due to physical distractions. Most new vehicles come with software that can be connected to smartphones and used to make phone calls, dictate texts, and even use apps hands-free. Automakers say this enables drivers to use their phones without being distracted. Is this solution enough? The statistics above suggest that it may not be.
If a driver can send messages over Facebook and view their feed without using their hands, aren’t they still viewing the feed and consequently being visually and mentally distracted? Voice recognition/dictation capabilities and hands-free headsets go a long way to help drivers keep their hands free, but what about the other two forms of distraction? They must also be taken into consideration.
Here’s a good example. In a September 2015 crash in Atlanta, Georgia—close to home—an Uber driver was seriously injured after being hit by a car where a teenage driver was driving over 100 m.p.h. while using Snapchat to take selfies. The teenager, obviously, was using their hands to direct the smartphone and snap a picture, but consider the fact that while doing so, their eyes were also distracted. Their mind was also not on the task of driving, otherwise they would not have been driving that fast.
If that driver, for example, would have been using a Bluetooth-enabled app or voice recognition software, some might argue that they would have been less distracted. Not necessarily, however. That driver’s eyes would still have been on the phone itself and not on the road. Their mind would still have been on the app and not on the speedometer.
When it comes down to it, there’s more to ending distracted driving than forcing a driver’s hands to always be on the steering wheel. Freeing a driver’s hands doesn’t clear the distraction entirely. It still exists and is still readily available. New technology may make it easier to keep your hands on the wheel, but ultimately, it’s up to every individual driver to learn how to not become distracted mentally and visually and to keep distractions to a minimum. 99% of all smartphone interactions can wait.
For more information or for a no-obligation case consultation if you’ve been involved in a car crash with a driver who was distracted, don’t hesitate to contact Bey & Associates today. If you’re eligible to file a claim, we can pair you with an Atlanta car accident lawyer and ensure you get the compensation you need. Filing a lawsuit may also, in turn, help keep Georgia roads safer for all residents and travelers.