Health Matters by Dr.Paul: Distracted Driving is Dangerous

The advent of mobile phones and texting/messaging/email has brought to light distracted driving. However, distractions did exist before cell phones but the rates and effects have increased dramatically over the last few years. In fact, distracted driving is thought to be the most common cause of motor vehicle accidents, even more than driving under the influence of alcohol.  In terms of real numbers, driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. Here are some more facts/statistics from The American Automobile Association (AAA) that reflect some of today’s realities:

  • Cell phones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.
  • 84% of distracted-driving-related fatalities in the US were tied to the general classification of carelessness or inattentiveness
  • 80% of collisions and 65% of near crashes have some form of driver inattention as contributing factors
  • Distracted drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a crash than attentive drivers
  • Children are four times more distracting than adults as passengers, and infants are eight times more distracting than adults as passengers
  • International research shows that 20% to 30% of all collisions involve driver distraction

Furthermore, drivers who talk on a hand-held cell phones are 4 to 5 times more likely to be in a crash or near-crash than non-distracted drivers. Reading, applying makeup, reaching for a moving object and dialing a hand-held device increase the risk 3 times.

In many jurisdictions, it's against the law to operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while driving and to view display screens unrelated to driving. Examples of hand-held devices include: iPods, GPS and MP3 players, cell phones, smart phones, laptops and DVD players. Here are some tips to avoid distraction from the Ontario government:

  • Use your cell phone only when you're parked, or have a passenger take the call
  • Let calls go to voicemail
  • Turn off your cell phone before you start driving
  • Identify and preset your vehicle's climate control, radio and CD player
  • Plan your route and set your GPS before you leave
  • When you're hungry or thirsty, take a break. Don't eat or drink while you drive
  • Avoid other distractions like reading maps, grooming activities and tending to children and pets

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