For years, state and federal groups have poured resources into raising awareness discouraging distracted driving and enforcing state laws prohibiting specific types of distraction. These efforts have fortunately paid off because most drivers in Maryland know that distraction behind the wheel could be deadly.
However, there are still things people may not understand about distracted driving.
It’s about more than your phone
One of the most distracting things people do behind the wheel is to operate a smart phone while driving, including texting, using social media or taking pictures. However, it’s not just using a phone that is distracting. There is a wide range of activities that make a driver unsafe, including:
- Reaching for something in the backseat
- Reading a map or using GPS
- Arguing with a passenger
- Trying to find music or a podcast to listen
These actions can mean a driver’s attention and eyes are off the road, and their hands are off the wheel. Thus, they can be slow to react and may swerve out of their lane, increasing their chances of losing control of their vehicle.
There is a “hangover effect”
Distraction does not disappear just because you put something away that is making it hard to concentrate. In fact, a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that drivers can remain distracted for nearly 30 seconds after sending a text, using in-dash infotainment systems or making a phone call.
Researchers call this the “hangover effect” and note that most drivers are not aware of this.
As such, even if you pull over to make a call or send a text, you may still be unfocused on driving once you get back on the road.
Safety features can’t do it all
Drivers have more technological tools in their cars than ever before. Cars have systems that can apply brakes in an emergency and warn drivers of lane departures; some vehicles even have autopilot features.
However, these systems are no replacement for a focused, attentive driver. Overreliance on them can make drivers more likely to engage in unsafe behaviors, including distracted driving.
Distracted driving remains a serious issue in Maryland: 26,000 people in this state suffer injuries in distracted driving crashes every year. The more informed drivers can be about the risks they take when they lose focus, the safer everyone can be on the road.