Definition of Distracted Driving
Any task that diverts a driver’s attention from the road ahead may be classified as a distraction. Further, a driver removing their hands from the wheel can also be a form of distracted driving. Many sources of distraction force a driver to do both of these things.
However, the complicated nature of operating a motor vehicle means that even if the driver has their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, they may still be distracted if their mind is preoccupied. Daydreaming or zoning out while behind the wheel can cause a driver to lose focus and be distracted.
Driving and Cell Phones
New York was the first state in the country to pass a law banning drivers from talking on a cell phone while driving*. There is also existing legislation that prohibits texting and the use of any handheld electronic devices. However, cell phone usage continues to be a significant contributor to distracted driving accidents. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that nearly 80% of crashes occurred just after the driver looked away from the road, and the most common cause of this distraction is cell phones.
Phones calls, texting, messaging apps, emails, and news feeds are all vying for attention. When a driver finds the temptation of their notifications impossible to resist, accidents are likely to occur.
Being tired can have the same impact on a person’s ability to drive as being intoxicated. These impairments are similar, too, in that a driver will often think they are okay until it’s too late. For many people, a ride in the car can lull them to sleep, which makes drowsy driving especially dangerous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following as ways drowsiness can affect drivers:
– Slowed reaction time
– Difficulty making decisions
– Less attentive
Certain drivers are more susceptible to falling asleep behind the wheel; these include commercial truck drivers, people who work long shifts or night shifts, and anyone taking medication that can cause drowsiness. That does not mean, however, that anyone is immune to this, as a lack of sleep will catch up with everyone eventually. The safest thing to do is not drive if you feel even a little drowsy.
Other Driver Distractions
Cell phone use is certainly a major concern and lead cause of accidents from distracted driving, but it is far from the only one. There are practically endless ways for people to get distracted when driving. The hustle and bustle of the city can sometimes make commuters feel like they don’t have the time they need to be careful.
Eating breakfast on the subway or applying makeup in a taxi may be an acceptable way to save time, but multitasking like this while behind the wheel is a bad idea. Regardless of how dangerous it is, many drivers drink coffee, fix their hair, and even shave while they drive.
Reading is another cause of distracted driving. This activity seems like it would be an obvious nonstarter when operating a vehicle, as it likely meets all three of the distracted driving criteria. Reading takes your eyes from the road, your hands from the wheel, and your mind from the task. Yet, many drivers read the news, emails, or maps while on the road.
Pets can cause hazards in a vehicle, too. A dog sitting on a driver’s lap or leaning too far out the open window is bound to grab some attention from the road. Some states have passed laws requiring a dog to be restrained in a vehicle, but New York has not. It is still a good idea to secure your dog in a safety harness to protect them, as well as yourself and others on the road.
Some distractions are impossible to avoid altogether. Any parent knows that driving with their children in the car requires a unique set of skills, but even the best multi-tasking mom or dad can’t drive safely and fill a sippy cup during a toddler tantrum. Having an extra set of hands to help out is great, but that’s not always an option. Drivers should pull over safely to handle anything that can’t wait to be addressed.
The very nature of the road means that distractions are everywhere. Other cars, wild animals, pedestrians, and construction sites are only some of the things that demand attention.
Dangers on the Road
While dangers exist on any given stretch of road, there are some that inevitably cause more problems than most. Pedestrians in the Bronx should exercise caution on Grand Concourse, especially at the intersections of East 170th Street and East 183rd Street. These areas are notoriously dangerous. White Plains Road and East Gun Hill Road are also highly hazardous for vehicle occupants and pedestrians.
What does this mean for people involved in accidents caused by a distracted driver? It’s unfortunately common for such accidents to occur. Recovering from your accident can be challenging enough without worrying about how you’ll cover the extra expenses.