The Real Dangers – and Consequences – of Distracted Driving

Driving a motor vehicle is a dangerous business, both for you and the others sharing the road with you. Although, fortunately, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the number of traffic accident fatalities has declined steadily since the seventies, there are still some 35,000 deaths attributable to road accidents every year in the US.

According to that same NHTSA data, one of the biggest reasons that vehicle accident fatalities have fallen over the last few decades is the fact that the vehicles on the road are simply built to be safer. However many safety gadgets a vehicle boasts, any car or truck really is only as safe as its driver, and driver error is all too often the key factor in a motor vehicle accident.

Often, in the aftermath of a crash, a driver will almost automatically declare “It wasn’t me, it was the other guy”. But what if you are the other guy – or girl? Your driving habits – even some you may be unaware of – may be putting you and others at risk. With this in mind, here are some of the things you should never do behind the wheel. And yes, some are no-brainers, but unfortunately, there does still seem to be a lot of seemingly brainless drivers on the road.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

Everyone knows that drunk driving is a recipe for disaster. Yet drunk driving is still a major cause of vehicle-related injuries and deaths. Most people know what they should do if they plan to drink: don’t drive. Either designate a sober driver, stick to soft drinks yourself or leave the car at home and make use of a cab, or, these days, easy to summon ride services like Uber or Lyft.

The problem is that many drivers think that they are ‘OK’ to drive because they only ‘had a few’, or they ate a meal that they happened to wash down with beer or wine. The simple fact is though that even a single alcoholic drink can significantly impair your ability to react, even if your ability to perform basic driving maneuvers is still intact. The bottom line? If you want to drink, don’t drive, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Driving under the influence of drugs does not just mean the obviously illegal ones but getting behind the wheel after taking certain prescription medications – and even a few over-the-counter ones – can impair your driving skills every bit as much as a few beers might. Therefore it’s important to heed the warnings that, by law, come along with most of those medications and never operate a vehicle after taking them until you are sure you know how they will affect you.

Driving Under the Influence of Electronics

A number of states have tried to tackle the problems caused by a driver distracted by their personal electronics, especially their cell phone, but recently one US state finally officially gave the practice a legal term. David McKenzie, a DUI lawyer in Montgomery county, PA explains; “A bill recently passed in the State of Washington lays out hefty fines and even possible jail time for drivers using electronic devices while driving and have given it a very fitting name. Driving while under the influence of electronics, or simply ‘DUI-E’, shows the fact that texting while driving, or even checking email, can be hugely dangerous for everyone on the road.”

DUI-E is an increasingly serious problem, with The National Safety Council reporting that the use of a cellphone while driving led to 1.6 million crashes in the US 2016. The answer to the problem should be simple, don’t use your phone while driving. However, in that same NSC study, it was found while 94% of drivers interviewed acknowledged the dangers of texting and driving, 35% admitted to doing it anyway.

However, now really is time to put the phone down. Over two dozen more states have similar laws to Washington’s in the works. Now the question: is it really worth incurring a hefty fine, picking up points on your license or, worst of all, injuring yourself or someone else just to check a text message or snap a selfie for Instagram? The answer is no every time.