April 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The hope is to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted driving by raising awareness and promoting education. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from driving. All distractions are dangerous to the driver, to any passengers, and to bystanders. Distractions include using a cell phone while driving, texting while driving, eating and drinking while driving, adjusting a radio or a CD player while driving, reading maps while driving, and using a navigation system while driving.

Distracted driving is a leading factor in fatal and serious injury crashes. Cell phone use has grown a lot in recent years and has caused an increase in cell phone use while driving. Cell phone use is a factor in nearly one in four crashes. Brain activity used for driving is decreased by 39% if a driver is talking on a cell phone. Hands free devices have not been shown to provide any safety benefit. Instead, the driver’s attention is focused on the cell phone conversation.

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is considered the most dangerous distraction. American teens send and receive an average of 3300 text messages every month. That is more than 6 texts for every hour they are awake! Texting may cause a driver to look away from the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles/hour a vehicle can travel the length of a football field, all while the driver is not looking. Texting while driving increases your chances of a crash by up to 23 times. Drivers who type or read messages while driving contribute to at least 100,000 crashes each year.

In 2009, 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured due to distracted driving. Sixteen percent of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

In Maine, there is a ban on all cell phone use-handheld and hands free-for new drivers. There is a ban on texting while driving for all drivers. It is against the law in Maine to drive while distracted. If you are traveling out-of-state, be sure to check the laws in each state.

People realize that distracted driving is dangerous but they continue driving while talking on cell phones and while texting. Recommendations include turning off your cell phone while driving so that you will not be tempted to answer a call. Ask your passengers to turn off their cell phones as well. Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and park if you can safely do this. Never text while driving. Always drive defensively. At any one time, 9% of drivers on the road are talking on cell phones making them four times as likely to crash, maybe into you.   

For more information about distracted driving visit www.distraction.gov or www.focusdriven.org.

Webmaster note: You can find some additional resources on the GrowME Blog–a great program (with lots of free resources) produced by AT&T called, “Your Last Text Message.”

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: