So you think you aren’t one of those “distracted” drivers. You know, one of those people who texts or talks on their cell phone. But do you eat or drink while driving? Talk to passengers? Adjust your radio, CD player or MP3 player? Attend to children or pets? Use a navigation system or look at a map? Check out your appearance in your visor
mirror? If yes to any of these, then indeed, you are a distracted driver.
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. There are three main types of distraction: manual - taking your hands off the wheel; visual - taking your eyes off the road; and cognitive - taking your mind off driving.
While a driver is 23 times more likely to crash when texting, according to a 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, texting is just one of the many distractions that can occur when a person is driving.
From 2007-2011, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported that 199 fatal crashes involved some form of driver distraction (documented by law enforcement at the crash scene); 28 percent of these fatal crashes cited an electronic device as the reason for distraction. Also within that same five-year period, there were more than 14,000 injury crashes related to driver distraction and approximately 21,000 non-injury crashes. Nearly one-quarter of these crashes occurred when the driver was distracted by a cell phone or other electronic device.
The Injury Prevention Service of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) offers these tips to help drivers manage common distractions and prevent crashes from occurring:
• Before you start your vehicle, put your cell phone, or smart phone, out of sight and on silent to avoid the urge to check it.
• Prepare in advance for your trip by checking directions, eating, grooming, or handling anything else that may distract you.
• Ask a passenger to be your designated caller or texter if necessary.
• Adjust your radio, CD player, or MP3 player before you drive your vehicle.
• Pull over if you need to make a call, tend to your children, eat or drink, groom, check a map or navigation system, or make any adjustments to anything in your vehicle.
Secure children in a child safety restraint prior to leaving for your destination.
· Secure your pets in a safety restraint or pet carrier.
· Focus on the task at hand by refraining from doing any activities that take your mind and eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.
For more information on how to prevent motor vehicle crashes, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://ips.health.ok.gov.