It’s undisputed that distracted driving is dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3,000 people are killed in distracted driving accidents each year around the country. Hundreds of thousands of others are injured. About 20% of those killed by distracted drivers, or about 600 victims each year, are pedestrians, bicyclists, and others not in a vehicle.
If you’re like most people, you probably automatically think of texting and other cell phone activity when you hear “distracted driving.” And, that’s where most state and local governments and public service organizations have focused their energies–with legislation and publicity campaigns. Georgia is no exception. In 2018, the Hands-Free Georgia Act took effect, prohibiting most mobile device use behind the wheel.
But, distracted driving was a problem long before widespread cell phone usage. In fact, it was a problem long before cell phones. And, while the increased dangers associated with texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel may have eclipsed other types of distracted driving, those other behaviors are still risky.
Other Dangerous Distractions on the Road
Anything that takes your attention away from the road can be a dangerous distraction. Some of the most common risky driver distractions include:
- Drinking and Driving: No, not that kind. You may be surprised to learn that coffee is a significant risk factor on the road. 83% of respondents to an Exxon Mobile survey said they drank beverages behind the wheel, and coffee is one of the most common. While any drink can divert your attention, hot beverages can be riskier than others because of the response a hot splash or spill triggers–and because we’re more careful to avoid such spills, meaning more attention is directed to the drink.
- Eating Behind the Wheel: Eating on the road is slightly less common than drinking. In response to the same survey mentioned above, 70% of drivers said they ate while driving. Chances are you’ve grabbed a burger at the drive-through and eaten on the road between appointments or fortified yourself with a breakfast bar on the way to the office. But, the NHTSA says eating while driving can increase the risk of a traffic crash by 80%. Sticky, greasy, and hard to manage foods can be especially dangerous.
- Making Adjustments in the Vehicle: Adjusting mirrors, turning on the heat, and even picking music are routine activities for most drivers. But, the risk is greater than you might expect. In one survey of fatal automobile crashes, 3% of drivers admitted that this type of adjustment had played a role in the accident.
- Navigating: Looking at or even programming your GPS may be simpler than trying to read an old-fashioned paper map on the road or squinting at your grandmother’s hard-to-read turn-by-turn directions. But, it still takes your eyes and your mind off the road. It turns out that looking away from the road for a good reason isn’t any less dangerous than looking away from the road for a frivolous reason.
Three Types of Distraction
The examples above are some of the distractions most commonly involved in automobile collisions. But, it’s important to understand just how diverse the opportunities for distraction are. The CDC breaks out driver distractions into three general categories:
- Taking your eyes off the road (reading a text message, looking at a passenger, checking directions, watching a video, reading billboards, searching for a street address, or watching activity outside the vehicle)
- Taking your hands off the wheel (eating or drinking, adjusting the temperature in the vehicle, lighting a cigarette, typing a text message, dialing a phone, or tending to a child)
- Taking your mind off of driving (daydreaming, carrying on a conversation by phone or with a passenger, planning a conversation, or worrying over a problem)
The bottom line is that safe driving requires keeping your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your attention on the task at hand. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to remember that even though there aren’t specific laws against behaviors like drinking coffee or smoking while driving, you are increasing the risk to yourself and others. Georgia law contains this specific provision:
A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.
In other words, the door is open to a citation for any type of distracted driving, even if it isn’t specifically called out in the statute the way texting and driving is. Similarly, a distracted driver may be deemed responsible for a motor vehicle accident.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice and more. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.