Do you ever speak while driving? How about adjusting a sun visor? Safety groups go off the deep end trying to make everything a safety nightmare.
Distracted driving is hard to argue against. We see it every day in our normal driving. The person you pass looking down at a device instead of up at the road ahead. The person in the car next you juggling a chihuahua in one hand and a chalupa in the other while they turn into your lane. That person you saw reading a newspaper on the highway. We constantly witness outrageous acts that are clearly dangerous. But did you know that according to safety groups and researchers who make a living studying distracted driving that you too are guilty of distracted driving? And that you engage in distracted driving pretty much every time you drive?
As amazing as this may sound, researchers who study distracted driving consider things like talking to another person in a vehicle distracted driving. Now, we agree with this on some level. Being engaged in a serious conversation or speaking to a person about a troubling topic may well diminish our ability to control a vehicle. But ask yourself this question; Have you ever driven in a vehicle with another person and not said a single word to them? You haven’t because that is ridiculous. Yet, when safety groups conduct surveys to determine what percentage of drivers are engaging in “distracted driving,” people in cars who are speaking are counted.
Have you ever had a thought while driving? If so, you may have driven distracted. Starting in 2012, NHTSA began including “Lost in thought/Daydreaming” as a reportable cause of distracted driving. Have you ever sipped from a water bottle while driving? If so, you are part of the problem.
A recent study on distracted driving published this past February in the Journal of Safety Research made headlines at many publications. The group found that cell phone use in vehicles overall had declined, but drivers observed manipulating a cellphone increased from 2.3% to 3.4%. The study and the subsequent headlines called this a “57% increase in phone manipulation.” Here is a quick summary of the other findings from the study: “About 14% of drivers observed in 2014 and 2018 were engaging in a secondary behavior other than cellphone use. Relative to 2014, drivers were significantly more likely to be observed manipulating an in-vehicle system (+ 115%), grooming themselves (+ 71%), or manipulating or holding an electronic device other than a cellphone (+ 1088%). In 2018, drivers were significantly less likely to be observed talking or singing while driving alone (− 33%), smoking (− 39%), or wearing headphones or earbuds (− 32%).”
What we found interesting about the study was the list of “secondary behaviors” it counted among those considered to result in distracted driving. A quick rundown of some of the secondary behaviors the group listed as contributing to distracted driving include:
– Adjusting Sun Visor
– Driver’s lips moving and appearing to form words
– Touching radio
– Touching climate control
– Touching embedded touchscreen display
– Touching other controls located in the center console
– Arm or hand moving in discernible motion toward unknown object or object that is not an in-vehicle system
– Nose picking
– All other observable secondary behaviors
Distracted driving is a real problem. NHTSA reports that about 3,000 people die each year in America due to distracted driving. However, if the warnings by safety groups are including turning on the heat there is a real risk that we drivers will tune out an important message.
We are polite and won’t ask you which of the above actions you’ve engaged in while driving, but we will admit to sometimes having to shade our eyes from the blinding effects of the sun. Consider us guilty as charged. What is the worst example of distracted driving you have observed?