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 they cause them to be visually and/or manually distracted. Texting is dangerous while driving because it combines all three categories of distractions. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) maintains that driving while distracted may be the new DUI since, for example, drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision when texting behind the wheel. Distracted driving in Canada is now the number one risk on the roads, contributing to eight of out 10 collisions.

In 2015 in the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 660,000 drivers were using electronic devices while driving during the daytime, and distracted drivers caused 3,477 total deaths. 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, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the fatal crash rate per mile for teenagers is nearly three times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over.

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. According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, on average, a non-fatal injury crash at work that involves distraction costs the employer $72,442.

Below are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:

  1. Generally distracted or "lost in thought"
  2. Cell phone use
  3. Outside person, object or event
  4. Other occupants in the car
  5. Using or reaching for a device that was brought into the vehicle
  6. Eating or drinking
  7. Adjusting audio or climate controls
  8. Using other devices/controls integral to the vehicle
  9. A moving object in the vehicle, such as a pet or insect
  10. Smoking-related

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.