April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to remind drivers of the privilege and responsibility they have when getting behind the wheel. The decisions they make while driving can have a direct impact their lives and the lives of everyone else on the roads. The unfortunate reality is an alarming amount of American and Canadian drivers are easily distracted, and this is reflected in the sobering statistics.
Distractions fall into the categories of visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following as common examples in these three categories of distractions:
Visual: Eyes off the road
- Reading a text message
- Looking up directions
- “Rubbernecking” (i.e., craning one’s neck to get a better view) at a crash site
Manual: Hands off the wheel
- Reaching for things inside the vehicle
- Using a hand-held device
- Adjusting the radio
- Eating or drinking
- Applying makeup
Cognitive: Mind off driving
- Talking on the phone
- Arguing with a passenger
- Thinking about your next appointment
Everyone on the roads is especially at risk when drivers use their cell phones because cell phones cause drivers to be visually and/or manually distracted. Texting is dangerous while driving because it combines all categories of distraction. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) says drivers who check their phones while driving are eight times more likely to be in a crash.1
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 2,841 Americans were killed and 400,000 were injured by distracted drivers in 2018. Handheld cell phone use continues to be the highest among teenage drivers, resulting in motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death for this age group. In fact, teenagers who reach for objects, such as their phone or food while driving increase their risk of crashing by almost seven times.2
Distracted driving occurs in workplaces as well since employees in all types of industries spend part of their workdays driving. Rushing to get to their next destination in time while thinking about work or using a cell phone makes a collision even more likely.
If your employees are involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving on the job, a business may be liable to pay the bills. Work-related vehicle accidents cost employers on average more than $24,500 in property damage; $150,000 in injuries and as much as $3.6 million per fatality. Add medical bills, legal expenses, lost productivity, workers’ compensation claims and insurance premiums to the total and employers can be on the hook for as much as $60 billion annually in motor vehicle crashes. 3
Below are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:
- Generally distracted or "lost in thought"
- Cell phone use
- Outside person, object or event
- Other occupants in the car
- Using or reaching for a device that was brought into the vehicle
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting audio or climate controls
- Using other devices/controls integral to the vehicle
- A moving object in the vehicle, such as a pet or insect
Many states – as well as some provinces in Canada - have prohibited the use of hand-held devices while driving. And thanks to the efforts of agencies and watchdogs spreading important messages, such as NHTSA’s “It Can Wait” campaign, which urges people to ignore texts while behind the wheel, awareness about the epidemic of distracted driving is on the rise. But ultimately the responsibility to obey the laws and drive with focus lies with each and every driver.
Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a great time for additional advisement around safe driving for your family, or guidance and programs for your business’s employees that are behind that wheel, contact HUB Risk Services today.