Driver Knowledge Tests

Your guide to distracted driving and cellphone use as a new driver

Even though driving was down in 2020, traffic fatality rates surged, with risky driving behaviors due to fewer cars on the road likely to be a prime culprit. However, though risky driving behaviors include a myriad of issues — like speeding — distracted driving is another main cause for concern as well that all new drivers should be aware of. From the sheer danger of distracted driving to how you can take action and prevent the issue, here’s what you need to know.

An undeniable danger to all involved

While common causes of car accidents are often immediately regarded as dangerous — such as driving under the influence or speeding — distracted driving is generally overlooked as a danger, though the frightening statistics behind the matter strongly suggests otherwise. For example, over 2,800 people were killed, and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in the United States back in 2018. Additionally, the Transport Research Laboratory found that writing a text message slows driver reaction by an astounding 35%, proving just how serious the matter is.

New drivers haven’t yet built the automated responses and reactions that help them function as a driver, so taking their concentration from the road even more of an effect than with an experienced driver.

The consequences

Looking away from the road for “just one second” may not seem like a big deal, though it can have major consequences. Consequences could range from fines to license suspension and more. However, distracted driving not only poses a risk to the driver themselves, but others on the road, too, and can result in lifelong trauma and/or injury. Fletcher Cleaves, for example, swerved in order to avoid a distracted driver on the road who was looking down at a device, and overcorrected — resulting in Cleaves becoming paralyzed from the chest down. Now unable to take part in sports, Cleaves is now a motivational speaker and uses his story to raise awareness of just how dangerous distracted driving can be.

Oftentimes, accidents involving distracted driving — whether it be due to cellphone use, eating, or fiddling with the radio — that result in injury may require the involvement of lawyers in order to hold those negligent accountable for their actions and attain justice and compensation for the victim. Representatives of JJS Justice note that experience is a key point in building a case with the right evidence and facts in order to get the maximum compensation needed, and that no obligation consultations can allow you to learn more about your legal options should you ever be in such a situation.

The value in strengthening the law

The statistics behind distracted driving undoubtedly highlights the need for change, especially where the culture behind the issue is concerned. Often defined as taking part in any action that takes the driver’s attention away from the road, it’s no secret that distracted driving often involves the use of cellphones, especially when it comes to today’s teens. While many states have laws in place regarding such activity, strengthening the law and cracking down on the issue is still a must for many. These laws are backed up by studies such as this one from the Queensland University of Technology that found that reaction times to hazards in the driver’s peripheral vision were increased by 50% when distracted by a phone. Breaking the normalized culture behind using a phone while in the car must involve strengthening the consequences for those that choose to do so.

An abundance of precautions worth taking

Being aware of how you can prevent falling victim to distracted driving is a step in the right direction when planning on getting your license, and can be done in an abundance of ways. Limiting the number of people in the car, as well as refraining from eating/drinking, multitasking, and messing with the radio are all great ways to ensure your eyes stay on the road, as it only takes a second to get distracted. In regards to smartphones, employing the use of apps that enable notifications to be turned off while driving is a major benefit that should be taken advantage of if available. Not only can such technology prevent notifications from coming through, but it can prevent additional distractions from noise, too. Above all, however, distracted driving is ultimately a choice that the driver makes, and minimizing distractions before starting the vehicle should always be a priority.

Despite fewer cars being on the roads in 2020, the surge in traffic fatality rates is more than concerning. While speeding and other factors are likely to blame, distracted driving is another issue that definitely needs more attention, both in regards to drivers and the law.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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