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Distracted Driving Starting to Look Like Drunk Driving

May 2, 2012

Is Distracted Driving the New Drunk Driving?

These days, everyone is well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. It wasn't so long ago, however, that people didn't take those risks too seriously. The government didn't start getting serious about punishing drunk drivers until the 1970s, which is when the first large-scale campaigns against drunk driving were waged. Based on the statistics found in a Kanetix survey, it looks like distracted driving could very well be the new drunk driving. People seem to be more than willing to admit to driving while distracted while studies are increasingly showing that distracted driving can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.

An Eye-Opening Poll

In the poll that was linked above, hired Leger Marketing to ask approximately 1,300 Canadians about their driving habits. Eight out of 10 of those who responded admitted to having at least one bad driving habit. A considerable number of the bad habits that are revealed in the poll involve distracted driving. For example, nearly 40 percent of respondents admit to consuming food or beverages while driving. This seems like a safe enough confession to make, but there's a big difference between sipping from a bottle of water and trying to eat a burrito or some other messy good while behind the wheel.

Distracted Driving Habits

There's a lot of information to digest in the Kanetix poll. For the sake of simplicity, let's take a look at the distracted driving habits that many drivers confess to having:

Consuming food or beverages - 38.8 percent of those who responded admit to being guilty of this habit.
Talking on a cell phone - 12.6 percent of respondents admit to chatting on their cell phones while driving.
Texting while driving - An incredible 11.4 percent of those who responded admit to engaging in this particularly risky behavior.
Applying makeup while driving - A mere three percent of respondents admit to taking their eyes off the road in order to apply makeup.

It should also be noted that 18.8 percent of those who participated in the poll consider themselves to be "perfect drivers."

What's the Big Deal?

At face value, comparing drunk driving with distracted driving may seem like overkill. However, statistics from organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration clearly show that distracted driving kills and injures thousands of drivers every year. Texting while driving has become the focus of many distracted driving campaigns, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. According to VTTI, a logistics company, sending or receiving a text message while driving causes a driver to take his eye off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At a speed of 55 miles per hour, it is akin to driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.

If that analogy isn't sobering enough, there's plenty of raw data out there to support the fact that distracted driving is a serious problem. The NHTSA regularly publishes statistics about car crashes in the United States. According to that organization, approximately 5,400 crash fatalities in the U.S. in 2009 were directly linked to distracted driving, and at least 448,000 people were injured in such accidents. The problem is probably going to get worse before it gets better too because more people are using text messaging than ever. According to CTIA, more than 196 billion text messaged were received or sent in the U.S. in June 2011, which represents an increase of nearly 50 percent from the same month in 2009.

The Bottom Line

Polls like the one that was published by are valuable because they throw the spotlight on people's bad driving habits. When drunk driving campaigns were first waged on a wide-scale basis, many people scoffed. It's clear that many people aren't taking the dangers of distracted driving seriously either. It's important to keep in mind that you're in control of a machine that weighs an average of 4,000 pounds, and it's imperative to maintain complete control while you are operating that machine. Sending or receiving a quick text message might seem like a reasonable thing to do, but it only takes a split second for things to go terribly awry. Text messages can wait; the safety of you and your passengers can't.


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