Debunking Distracted Driving Myths

As Americans become more attached to their cell phones and the need for constant contact with work, family and entertainment, the most dangerous facet of distracted driving could be the myths surrounding it.

Statistics show there’s no denying the increased danger of distracted driving. More than 3,300 people died in distraction-related car crashes in the most recent year of available data and more than 421,000 people sustained injuries, according to distraction.gov.

A driver texting and driving.Many states have outlawed text messaging while driving, but some drivers continue to sneak looks at incoming messages and respond. This causes drivers to take their eyes off the road for seconds that could be critical to avoiding crashes.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute published a recent report showing drivers are twice as likely to crash or nearly crash when they send and receive text messages. Those tasks can cause drivers to divert their eyes from the road an average of 23 seconds.

The problem of distracted driving isn’t confined just to drivers who text and drive. Reaching for the phone, looking for a contact’s number or dialing the number can raise the risk of crashing by three times, according to VTTI’s report.

What people don’t realize could hurt or kill them.

Debunking Distracted Driving Myths

Myth

Hands-free texting and talking equals risk-free.

Fact

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning makes dashboard infotainment centers look pretty attractive in TV commercials. But even though 80 percent of American motorists think these types of hands-free devices are safe to use, the statistics don’t bear it out. Roughly 30 studies show hands-free devices are no safer than handheld cell phones and smart phones because the brain is still distracted by the conversation or task at hand. Twenty-six percent of car crashes involve cell phone use, including hands-free phones such as earpieces, dashboard systems and speaker phones, the National Safety Council The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute published a recent study showing hands-free devices involve visual-manual tasks 50 percent of the time, increasing the risk of crashes.

Myth

Talking on a cell phone while driving is not distracting.

Fact

Motorists who talk on the cell phone while driving develop inattention blindness and miss seeing roughly 50 percent of their surroundings, including traffic lights, stop signs and pedestrians, b when a person is focused on a phone conversation, according to the NSC. New York City prohibits taxi drivers and novice drivers from talking on any cell phone whether hands-free or hand-held while driving.

Myth

You can safely carry on a cell-phone conversation as long as you have both hands on the wheel.

Fact

Driving requires that you keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on driving. The brain can switch back and forth between tasks, but it can’t handle two things well at the same time. In fact, when a person talks on the phone, brain activity slows by 33 percent in the area where moving images are processed.

Debunking distracted driving myths on brain function while talking on the phone

Myth

Technology can improve safety for wireless communications.

Fact

Vehicle improvements such as crash avoidance systems, video systems and stability control can help cut down on wrecks. But dashboard infotainment systems such as voice-to-text, email and social media distract drivers. In many situations, drivers must look away from the road to check the spelling of words or to look at text messages and email.

Myth

Talking to passengers can be just as distracting as a cell phone conversation.

Fact

Passengers provide another set of eyes and help spot hazards. Passengers also can recognize when traffic is becoming difficult to maneuver and end the conversation.

Myth

Texting and driving is most a problem involving teenage drivers.

Fact

It’s true that drivers under 20 make up the largest proportion of distracted drivers, with 10 percent involved in deadly wrecks said to be distracted when they crashed.  Ten percent of parents admit to holding conversations involving multiple text messages. Drivers in their 20s account for a fourth of drivers involved in deadly distraction-related crashes.

Seek legal help

If you are involved in a car crash caused by a distracted driver in New York City, you could be eligible for compensation through a personal injury claim. Contact an experienced car crash attorney who can guide you through the legal system and make sure you receive an award you deserve to cover the costs of property damage, lost work time, physical injuries and mental anguish.