You watched a teenage driver on a cellphone drift off the road ahead of you, rolling the car. There was absolutely no reason for the crash: The driver simply didn't look up before it was too late.
Now you're constantly worried on your commute to work. You've read the statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, detailing thousands of deadly accidents every year that can link back to distraction. You know it's not just teens. You know cellphones play a huge role as people check text messages, take pictures and even browse the internet while they drive.
It's always someone else
If you start asking around, people may tell you that they're not distracted when they drive. It's always someone else. They never talk on the phone or answer text messages.
That's part of the problem with distracted driving: People have started to assume it means texting and driving, or going on Instagram. If they stay off the phone, they assume it's safe.
The reality, though, is that there are many forms of distraction. All of them can lead to car accidents. It's not just texting, and you're right to worry. A lot of those drivers are distracted enough to cause accidents, even if they don't admit it -- or don't realize it.
To help you better understand why thousands of people die and many more get injured every year, here are a few common distractions:
- Changing the radio station. How long are you really looking down?
- Bringing up a new album or playlist on your phone. Maybe you never listen to the radio, but you're not riding in silence.
- Looking at the screen on your GPS. Even more dangerous is trying to adjust the route or input a new destination while you drive.
- Talking on your phone, either answering or making calls. Texting isn't the only phone-related issue: The safest way to drive is simply to turn your phone off entirely.
- Eating lunch. You likely look down every time you take a bite, and spilling anything can cause an instant reaction that may result in a crash.
- Drinking coffee. Again, spills are a huge issue. Drinking anything behind the wheel -- not just alcohol -- is dangerous.
- Doing your makeup or personal grooming. You're pressed for time, so you're still getting ready on the way to work.
- Talking to a passenger. People in the car can be just as distracting as people on the other end of a phone conversation.
As you can see, drivers must stay focused on the road. Anything that pulls them away from this focus is a risk. If you're hit by one of these distracted drivers the next time around, you must know your legal options.