Three Things You Should Never Do While Driving

car accident victimIt’s appalling when you see another driver careening down the road with a newspaper spread over the steering wheel, or a mascara wand in hand. It seems like common sense that there are certain activities that are simply too distracting to perform while traveling at 40 miles per hour.

Yet people still do them.

The unfortunate truth is that distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions, in Portland as well as elsewhere. Remember the Tri-Met bus driver who was fired after he was caught reading a Kindle while driving?

Last year, 5,474 people died in the United States in motor vehicle collisions caused by distracted driving — representing 16 percent of all traffic fatalities — and a staggering 448,000 were injured, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. A recent study by Safe Kids USA found that one in six drivers are distracted while driving through school zones.

So because stating the obvious is still necessary, following are three things you should never do while driving.

1. Text or talk on your cell phone. Oregon traffic laws now prohibit the use of mobile communication devices while driving, unless the driver is over 18 and using hands-free technology — and for good reason. Here’s some food for thought:

  • Eighteen percent of U.S. distracted-driver fatalities in 2009 involved the use of a cell phone.
  • One NHTSA study found that dialing a hand-held device such as a cell phone increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times, while talking or listening on a hand-held device increases the risk by 1.3 times. (Note that some studies have indicated hands-free accessories don’t necessarily make cell phone use any less distracting.)
  • Drivers in the 30- to 39-year-old range are responsible for the majority of distracted-driving collisions involving cell phone use.
  • One of the first things an Oregon personal injury attorney will do for a client who was the victim of an auto accident is request the other driver’s cell phone record from the day of the collision.

2. Read. Reading while driving is more common than most people think, according to the National Safety Commission. Many commuters bring along something to read while they’re mired in rush-hour traffic; however, they often fail to stop reading once traffic begins moving again. Whether you’re reading a text message or email on a mobile communication device; reading a map or a list of directions; or reading a newspaper, book or ebook, reading while driving not only takes your eyes off the road, but it takes your cognitive attention off driving. Reading increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 3 times, and if you’re caught, it can score you a ticket for careless driving.

3. Groom yourself. Drivers who are strapped for time in the mornings often save part of the grooming process for the commute to work. They put on makeup, paint their nails, shave — all while driving. Again, these activities take your eyes and attention off the road; applying makeup increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 3 times. Furthermore, there’s an increased likelihood the driver will drop an item, and reaching for an object while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 9 times.

Distracted driving is a threat to your safety as well as the safety of those around you. It’s also a great way to become the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. Although the ability to multi-task is highly prized in our society, multi-tasking is best left at home or the office — not while traveling between the two.

[photo: sylvar]