Vital Signs: Distracted driving kills

By Anna Kellaher
Columnist

Texting while driving is a dangerous distraction (Flickr).

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the National Safety Council. Every day, 100 Americans are injured and at least nine are killed in distracted driving crashes. Distracted driving includes all activities that take your attention away from the task of driving, such as talking on the phone, eating, putting on makeup or setting the GPS. Making a commitment to keep your focus on the road can save your life as well as others.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes three main types of distraction while driving to look out for.

Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off the road, such as turning around to see passengers in the backseat or looking down at a cell phone. Manual distractions can involve taking one or both of your hands off of the wheel to change the radio station, move side view mirrors and adjust climate controls. Thirdly, cognitive distractions involve taking your mind off of driving, like talking to a friend in the car.  This kind of distraction can be just as dangerous as visual and manual distractions.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous since it ties together all three types of distractions.  Other combination distractions, such as eating and drinking, pose the same heightened chance of injury.

It takes about five seconds to read or send a text message. That may not sound like a long time, but at 55 mph, it’s long enough to cover the length of a football field. Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times, according to the US Department of Transportation.

Keep your eyes and your attention on the road at all times while driving and remind your friends and family to do the same when you are a passenger.

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