April is “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.” In 2015, approximately 29,400 collisions occurred on Arizona state highways. Of those collisions 2,729 were related to distracted driving. Furthermore, 4,218 citations and 3,282 warnings were issued for violations connected to distracted driving.
Distracted driving, simply stated, is anything that takes the drivers mind and attention off of the road and compromises safety, not only of the driver, but of any passengers in the vehicle and other individuals on the highway.
There are three types of distractions when driving: 1) visual – taking eyes off the road 2) manual – hands off the wheel 3) cognitive – mind off of what the driver is doing.
The National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration gives the follow examples of these three types of distractions:
• Using cell phones while driving
• Eating or drinking
• Talking to passengers
• Reading, including maps
• Using a navigational (GPS)system
• Watching a video
• Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
A distracted driver may be compared to an intoxicated driver. Distracted driving delays a driver’s reaction time equaling that of a 0.08% blood alcohol content. In Arizona, drivers are legally impaired at 0.08% blood alcohol content. ADPS Sergeant Zach Swalander, a Tucson area motorcycle squad supervisor stated, “In some cases a distracted driver is worse than a drunk driver. The drunk driver, although impaired, has his eyes on the road. A distracted driver has no eyes on the road.”
Delay in a driver’s reaction can have devastating results. In a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute it was found that when a driver is texting, whether receiving or sending, his/her eyes are taken from the road for an average of five seconds. If traveling at 55 miles per hour, the vehicle would travel the distance of a football field. That delay may lead to deadly consequences in heavy traffic. If you drive distracted, you are three times more likely to be involved in a collision.
In Arizona, during 2015, there were approximately 2,729 collisions on state highways where distracted driving was identified as a factor. In breaking that number of collisions down further, the following is noted:
• 283 while a cell phone was being used
• 6 while the driver was texting
• 126 while the driver was eating
• 18 while the driver was grooming
• 153 while the driver was dealing with media; radio, CD player, MP3, navigational device, or video
• 180 while the driver was in conversation with another in the car
• 631 when the driver was distracted by something happening outside the vehicle
• 26 when the driver was dealing with a pet
• 326 when the driver was reaching for something
• 206 when the driver was dealing with an equipment issue
• 13 when the driver was smoking
• 14 while the driver was reading
• 699 for other distractions
In 2015, ADPS troopers issued 4,218 traffic citations and 3,282 traffic warnings for traffic violations connected to distracted driving.
What can be done to combat distracted driving?
• Avoid all activities that draw eyes from the road.
• Make sure the seat belt is on and the cell phone is off.
• Be aware of traffic on the road. Scan mirrors and blind spots every 5 to 7 seconds.
• If a look at a map or GPS is needed, pull over and off the road.
• Finish dressing and grooming before driving.
• Eat food and snacks before or after the trip, not while driving.
Arizona law requires drivers to control their vehicle to avoid a collision and exercise reasonable care for the protection of others. Enjoy Arizona’s highways, byways and be safe!