Chances are, you were one of the more than 84 million Americans who drove at least 50 miles away from your home during the recent holiday season, according to AAA predictions. That increase in traffic often leads to an increase in motor vehicle accidents. Add a holiday heavy on alcohol usage by adults, and it can become a dangerous mix. But drinking and driving is not alone in causing an uptick in accidents during times of heavier traffic. Automobile accidents due to distracted driving are increasing daily. “Distractions come in three forms,” notes David Holcombe, Regional Administrator/Medical Director for Region 6 of the Louisiana Office of Public Health. “Visual, which is looking away from the road, manual, which is doing other things with your hands, and cognitive, which is thinking about other things.”
According to the website, www.distraction.gov, more than 3,000 people were killed in 2010 in crashes involving a distracted driver. In addition, an estimated 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. While changing the radio station, or even your CD, is distracted driving, the most common form of distracted driving today involves the use of cell phones, whether it be making or receiving a call or sending and reading texts. “Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves,” notes Donna Lemoine, trauma services director at Rapides Regional Trauma Center.
According to the distraction.gov website, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. That is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55 mph blind. “Use of a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, reduces a driver’s reaction as much as a blood-alcohol level of 0.8 percent,” Holcombe said. “Some people who would not dream of drinking and driving will use a cell phone without a second thought.”
“For years, we’ve always known drinking and driving was a fatal combination,” said Lemoine. “Now, the distracted driver is just as fatal.”