Distracted driving is in some ways like drunk driving. It is a driving decision that contributes to numerous motor vehicle collisions and thousands of deaths every year. Distracted drivers, like drunk drivers, may habitually engage in unsafe behaviors and believe that the fact that they haven’t caused a crash yet justifies their conduct.
Many people who drive while texting or while they are drunk understand that these behaviors are dangerous but assume that they have the skill to manage safely. Their overconfidence is the result of a flawed belief that they can safely multitask while driving a car.
In reality, cellphone use has a quantifiable negative impact on your driving skill.
Phone use affects what people notice in traffic
Distraction is any activity that makes you look away from traffic, mentally focus on something else or take your hands off of the steering wheel. Texting while driving or other forms of phone use, including talk-to-text software, is dangerous because it involves all three of these kinds of distractions at the same time.
Looking at your phone will increase your reaction time and make it much more likely that you won’t notice changes in the road conditions near you. Researchers estimate that those using their phones while driving will miss roughly 50% of the factors in their environment.
Phone use continues to distract even when someone stops
Some people try to find workarounds so that they can remain connected even during their daily commute. They might only pick up their phone when they stop at an intersection, for example. The logic here is clear. The vehicle isn’t in motion, and they will set the phone down before they proceed through the intersection.
Texting someone back while stopped at a red light seems like a perfectly logical decision. However, science shows that it is unsafe. On average, it takes about 27 seconds for your mind to fully refocus on driving once you set the phone down again. You won’t fully focus on the road around you and you might miss a vehicle approaching from another direction when you proceed through the intersection.
When you understand the way that phone use affects your driving skills, you may have the motivation you need to change your current habits on the road. Learning about common causes for car crashes can also help you hold others accountable for their bad driving decisions.