Distracted driving has become one of the most dangerous trends on American roads. It’s estimated that nine people die and 100 are injured every day due to distracted driving-related accidents. In Maryland, distracted driving contributes to about 58 percent of all traffic accidents, killing nearly 200 people and injuring over 27,000 others every year.
Unfortunately, every driver has fallen victim to a distraction at some point behind the wheel. To help spread awareness on the prevalence of distracted driving accidents, April is recognized as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. By educating drivers on what constitutes as distracted driving and providing methods for preventing it, we can all help do our part to save lives simply by just paying attention.
Three Types of Impairments
Distractions on the road impair your ability to drive safely. According to Geico, there are three different types of impairments that can affect a driver’s ability to concentrate:
- Visual- driver takes their eyes off the road
- Manual- driver takes their hands off the wheel
- Cognitive- driver takes their mind off of driving
Drivers can be distracted by one, two, or all three types of impairments at the same time depending on what they are doing. Texting, for instance, is one of the most common forms of distractive driving and involves all three impairments. Drivers who text are looking at their phone, taking their hand off the wheel to text, and focusing their mind on what it is they want to say, putting everyone else on the road on hold and at serious risk.
The Dangers of Multitasking
Multitasking behind the wheel of a car is a myth- not a skill. According to the National Safety Council, the human brain cannot efficiently perform two tasks at the same time. For example, if you are driving while talking to someone on the phone, your brain is constantly switching back and forth between the road and conversation. Not only are you processing the information coming in and figuring out what to say next, but you’re also attempting to navigate your vehicle and react to unpredictable hazards that can be easily missed if your brain is not entirely focused.
These are the most common activities drivers are participating when they think they are multitasking on the road:
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Putting on makeup
- Talking on the phone or through Bluetooth
- Texting or scrolling through social media
- Choosing music
- Listening to a podcast or book on tape
- Reaching back and helping children with activities
- Reading a book or tablet
- Dancing or singing alone or with passengers in the car
- Reaching over or down to pick up items
The myth of multitasking can be proven merely by looking at one of the most common causes of distracted driving accidents: daydreaming. In an article published last April by Insurance Business America, distracted driving trends showed that 61 percent of distracted drivers indicated their accidents occurred when they were “lost in thought” or “daydreaming”. Even when your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, if your brain is not focused on driving, accidents are bound to occur.
How To Reduce Driving Distractions
It’s easy to tell someone how to reduce distractions on the road, but some of us need a bit more help than others. The following tools were designed to assist drivers in overcoming the most common distractions that are known for leading to serious and fatal to accidents:
- Distraction Alert Devices: There are many gadgets on the market aimed at keeping distracted drivers alert. Some tools, such as the Ridy device, target multiple distracted driving behaviors. This device analyzes your face while driving to determine when your eyes leave the road or when you may be engaging in dangerous acts. Other devices target specific distractions. Drowsy driving alarms are helpful for frequent nighttime drivers or motorists who work long shifts. Worn by the driver, these alarms will go off to alert a driver if they are showing signs of falling asleep at the wheel.
- Anti-Distraction Devices: There are some products on the market that do not fool around. This Distracted Driving Prevention Dock is installed into the glovebox of your vehicle, and will not allow you to turn on your car unless your smartphone is secured in!
- Driving Modes: Cell phones have become one of the most significant distractions on the road. Newer operating systems on the Samsung and Apple phones have driver modes that can help reduce the urge to text, call, or talk when the car is in motion. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T have also rolled out their own driving modes that consumers can use via apps. You can find more information on these apps and features through Consumer Reports.
- Driving Apps: In addition to driving modes, there are several apps available that can hold calls and text messages, while also locking drivers out of their phones if they are above a certain speed. Parents can also download apps to monitor their teen drivers remotely to see if they are using their phone while in motion. For more information on distracted driving apps to download, visit
- Advanced Safety Features: Newer vehicles have safety features to prevent certain distractions and protect drivers from other errors they might make behind the wheel. Hands-free and voice controls, crash avoidance systems, lane departure warnings, and optical vehicle cameras are all aimed at reducing accidents caused by human error.
MD Police Are Cracking Down on Distractions
If the guilt that you could hurt yourself or someone else from driving distracted is not enough, Maryland police are hoping their penalties will be.
The start of April was also the beginning of the Maryland State Police annual crackdown on distracted driving. According to The Garret County Republican, state troopers issued 16,050 citations for distracted driving and 18,671 warnings back in 2018. So far in 2019, troopers have issued 3,065 citations and 3,528 warnings on Maryland roads. Here are the fines Marylanders if caught participating in distracted driving behaviors involving cellphones:
- $83 fine for first-time cellphone offense
- $140 fine for second-time cellphone offense
- $160 fine for third-time cellphone offense
- $70 fine and one point on your license for texting
- $110 fine and three points on your license if the device resulted in a crash
- $5,000 and possibly 3 years in prison if your cellphone contributed to an accident that seriously injured or killed someone in a crash.
Safety Tips For Driving Safe in MD
All Marylanders have a responsibility to drive with care to protect the health and safety of other motorists, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists sharing the road. The Maryland Highway Safety Department is offering this advice to drivers looking to reduce their distractions in the car:
- Only use your cellphone in an emergency.
- Pull off to the side of the road if you are tired.
- Limit the number of passengers in your car.
- Limit the level of activity inside your car.
- Do not eat and drive.
- Multitask outside the vehicle, not while driving.
If you are dedicated to driving safe this month, take the pledge! Visit the National Safety Council’s website and sign the Just Drive Pledge to commit to driving cellphone and distraction free.
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