Distracted Driving: A Pervasive Yet Preventable Problem

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Over the years, America’s roads, highways, and interstates have become safer and less deadly. We can credit this largely to improvements in safety technology and vehicle design.

However, though technology has made certain aspects of driving safer, it’s also created new challenges. Distracted driving is one of the most serious.

The Problem With Distracted Driving

This isn’t a new topic, by any means. Experts and car owners in the U.S. have debated it for years.

But it’s a subject that continues to deserve serious attention until we achieve further, substantive progress in safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,450 American lives in 2016 alone.

On top of that, another 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle collisions that involved distracted drivers. Unfortunately, analysts predict these numbers will increase.

Given that nearly 400,000 lives are directly impacted by distracted drivers (and millions more suffer indirect effects from injuries and deaths), no one should continue to regard the issue lightly. The nation needs direct action.

Fighting Back With Proactive Solutions

Distracted driving probably isn’t a phenomenon we will be able to abolish completely. As long as there are humans at the wheel, the risk of distraction will also be a factor.

But it shouldn’t be something that claims the lives of nearly 10 Americans each day. Here’s how we can fight back.

1. Identify Less Obvious Causes

We all know about the most common causes of distracted driving: behavior like texting while driving or talking on the phone behind the wheel. But it’s just crucial to identify the less obvious culprits as well.

These behaviors can be even more dangerous because they’re allowed to occur without comment or pushback. Truck drivers, for example, often create extremely dangerous conditions.

When 80,000 pounds of aluminum and steel are involved, even the slightest deviation from full attention to the road may create a problem. Unfortunately, distractions are common.

“To counter the boredom and loneliness of the road, some truckers turn to smartphones or even videos to pass the time,” Teddy, Meekins & Talbert explains. “Distraction may even be part of the job for drivers who are expected to use complex dispatch and communication equipment on the road.”

This isn’t something the U.S. ought to ignore. If trucking firms won’t take responsibility for stopping such practices, we may have to push for more outside laws and regulations to compel them to respect safety rules on the road.

Another, lesser-known factor in distracted driving is the use of navigation systems. Even when smartphones are hands-free, a momentary glance away from the road can be sufficient to lose focus and lead to a deadly collision.

Finding ways to make navigation easier without encouraging drivers to take their eyes off the road is key.

2. Enhance Native Technology

Perhaps surprisingly, the best way to fight distracted driving may be with improvements in technology. Specifically, the onus should be on auto manufacturers to develop better native technology across all trim levels of their vehicles.

Any new vehicle should have anti-distraction features built into the car or truck. For example, navigation systems that require drivers to look down or away from the road are unacceptable.

We need more systems that embed directional cues in the windshield (or at least higher up on the dash). Little things like this could make a big difference.

3. Instill Stricter Consequences

Finally, the “hand holding” period must end immediately. Drivers today are well aware of the consequences of distracted driving and have had plenty of time to adjust.

This isn’t an issue where we can afford to allow second and third chances. Stricter consequences for first-time offenses should be enacted.

Heavy fines and even jail time shouldn’t be out of the question. Distracted driving is a serious problem that can have dire consequences, so it demands a major policy response.

Until more laws are in place to punish offenders, it’s unlikely that anything but minimal progress will be accomplished.

Paving the Way for a Safer Future

There’s no excuse for continuing to allow 400,000 individuals and their families to be victimized by something as preventable as distracted driving. Proactive solutions must be pushed at both the state and national level to ensure greater safety for all citizens.

In order for that to happen, though, we need as many supporters as possible to rally around these ideas and pressure decision makers to take action.