You See Distracted Drivers Every Day!
We've been told a thousand times not to do it but so many people are still
texting from behind the wheel of their cars that almost 80% of all
distracted driving accidents in the US -- that's 330,000 a year folks --
are claimed to be due to this awful habit.
More than 2,500 people die annually in crashes caused by texters --
tragically many of them innocent victims of others' irresponsible behavior.
Consequences of Distracted Driving in Maryland
In Maryland, there were more than 48,500 distracted driving crashes in
2015, the latest year for which figures are available. A third of these
resulted in injuries. Baltimore and Washington metro areas account for 85%
of these accidents.
Fortunately, the numbers actually represent a decline on previous years but
there's no room for complacency.
According to the state's Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) weekday
afternoons are the most dangerous time for distraction accidents
We're Not Doing Enough
Distracted driving -- defined as a crash in which the driver's attention
was diverted from the road -- is not the main cause of crashes in the US,
except among the under 20s for whom distracted driving is the leading cause
of accidents. (58% says the AAA Foundation.)
But it's still a major problem and one that all of us can do something
about. After all, even if you're not a texter, you're still at risk from
According to the non-profit EndDD (End Distracted Driving), drivers just
aren’t taking the issue, especially cell phone usage, seriously enough.
Their research says that although 84% of drivers recognize the dangers,
more than a third of these very same people admit to texting or sending
emails from behind the wheel themselves. In another study, although 96% of
drivers described themselves as safe drivers, more than half admitted to
using the phone anyway.
And a poll in Fortune magazine, found that 20% of all cell phone
users feel the need to respond immediately to text messages, no matter what
Of course, these are not the only distracted driving cause. There are
plenty more. For example: unruly passengers, untethered pets, the behavior
of other road users and pedestrians and sheer driver stupidity -- like
those who've been spotted applying makeup, unwrapping packages, watching a
video, reading and even playing a guitar!
What You Can Do
How can you prevent distracted driving? We can keep on pressing home the
message to drivers, especially teens. And we need to let passengers know
that they can play a part too in cutting down this type of accident.
But we can do a lot more.
The drivers organization AAA offers these 10 tips:
- Deal with distractions before or after your trip, not while driving.
- If something unavoidably demands your attention, stop as soon as it's
safe to do so and deal with it.
- Before setting out, ask passengers (or tell them, if they're kids) to
help you focus on your driving by avoiding distractions.
- Put your phone and other electronic devices -- some people have been
seen using laptops -- out of reach. Switch off your phone or lock it in the
trunk. This applies even to hands-free devices which, while legal to use,
have been shown to be just as guilty in distracting drivers.
- Secure your children and pets properly. That means seats or belts for
the kids and either a tether or transporter for animals. (It's crazy, as
some people do, to drive with a pet on your lap no matter how well behaved
you think they are).
- Don’t snack or eat meals while driving. Especially, avoid messy foods.
- Do your dressing and grooming at home. Better to be late dealing with
these personal tasks than never to arrive because you got distracted behind
- Likewise, fix your rear mirror, seat position, radio/music player, GPS,
and heater/air conditioner before you move off. (If your phone is also your
GPS, you MUST have a disciplined approach, placing it out of reach.)
- Stow bags and any other loose gear that could shift or roll. Again, put
them out of reach.
- Consciously stay focused when on the road. Scan the road continuously,
looking for potential hazards, cyclists and wayward pedestrians.
We would add a few more important tips to this list.
- Even if you have GPS, plan your route before you leave. And if you go off
course, stop and rework your route.
- Make sure your driver's seat is in the most comfortable position and that
your view is not obstructed.
- Don’t drive when you're tired, upset or tense. It's too easy to lose
And, of course, don’t drink-and-drive, which slows down your reactions. And
leave your guitar playing for a safer time!
Phone Apps for Your Teen
You might also consider installing apps on your teen's phone to check on
their driving habits and to ensure they don't text or make calls while
driving. Some apps will actually block text messages and can be set to
auto-launch when the user starts the car.
You can find a good list of safe-driving apps here:
With teens, however, it's not just phones that create problems. So do their
passengers. The best way to tackle this is to talk with your young driver
and reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and other rowdy behavior.
Headlines about teen crashes, especially around graduation time, are
unfortunately only too common.
It's the Law
Not only is distracted driving a severe threat to road safety, the use of a
handheld phone while driving in our state is also against the law.
First time offenders can be fined $83, second time $140 and third time
$160. Points can be given if usage results in a crash. A driver causing
serious injury could be imprisoned for three years and fined $5,000.
Maryland has a campaign called "Park the Phone Before Your Drive." If every
one of us obeyed that, just think of the consequences of distracted driving
-- deaths, injuries and grief -- that we would be spared from suffering.
Kirby Insurance Agency
We provide auto insurance for all of Maryland from our offices in Baltimore and Westminster. Please be safe and stay distracted free while driving, it could save your life or another's life.