Distracted driving is becoming a growing issue

Distracted driving is becoming a growing issue

Cell phones have added convenience to daily life, but they also are becoming a major distraction for drivers of all ages. A tiny glance away from the road to text or check a phone could have catastrophic results.


While the ill effects of drunk driving are well known, it isn’t just the inebriated that can cause pain and anguish during a lost moment on the road.

With more and more ways to get lost in thought when behind a wheel, distracted driving has become a problem for far too many drivers. For many licensed drivers, whether they’ve been driving for years or are teens who are fairly new to driving, it can be easy to get caught up in a moment, a quick second that can change people’s lives in a heartbeat.

“In the last couple of years, distracted driving has gotten a whole lot worse,” Lt. Tim Stryker of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office said. “Every time I review accidents, I am seeing that distracted driving is a large portion of what caused the crash.”

While much of the onus of distracted driving comes from the use of cell phones, Stryker said people looking around at the scenery, fiddling with their radio or trying to pick something up off the car floor also are contributors.

And when a vehicle driven at 55 mph or faster travels the length of an entire football field in a matter of seconds, each moment a driver spends with his or her eyes anywhere but on the road can be disastrous.

“People lose focus, and it creates unassured cleared distance,” Stryker said. “They simply don’t have time to stop.”

Stryker said texting or talking on the phone is a secondary offense and is not something law officers will pull people over for in itself. However, he said Ohio law does state if someone causes an accident while being distracted and someone is cited for failure to control or unassured clear distance, they could be cited for distracted driving as well.

Stryker said patrolman are constantly experiencing drivers going across marked lanes and driving off the berm of the road, which sets the table for accidents to occur. He said officers are constantly talking to each other about the use and abuse of cell phones that drivers are rarely apt to admit to.

In Holmes County, where buggies, bikers, walkers and slow-moving tourists can be around every turn and each hilltop, distracted driving becomes an even more dangerous game.

“We just ask that people put away their cell phones and pay attention to the road when driving,” Stryker said.

Driving requires not only knowledge of the rules of the road and skill behind the wheel, but also concentration on the task at hand. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates distracted driving has been a significant factor in fatal car crashes. NHTSA said as many as one in 10 deaths are now attributed to driver distraction.

Distractions can come in many forms but fall into one of three categories: manual, visual and cognitive. Any distraction has the potential for serious consequences including deadly accidents. Here’s a look at some of the common distractions and how to avoid them.

—Mobile phone use: Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Texting combines cognitive, manual and visual distractions. Turn off phones while behind the wheel to help reduce the temptation to grab the phone.

—Daydreaming: Being lost in one’s thoughts can be a big distraction. Driving with something heavy on one’s mind can cause a person to lose track of the road. This may occur when experiencing intense emotions, particularly anger or stress. There’s also a condition called “highway hypnosis” that causes drivers to “zone out” while driving. It often occurs while driving on open highways for extended periods of time. Taking breaks and pulling over if you notice your mind wandering can help.

—Pets and children: Young children or unsecured pets can be very distracting in the car. As a child calls out, begins to cry or wants his or her needs met, drivers may turn to address those needs and take their eyes off the road. Pets that are moving around the vehicle also may distract a driver. All pets and children should be secure in the vehicle at all times.

—Adjusting the GPS: Recalibrating the GPS or entering an address while driving can be a distraction. It’s best not to touch the GPS unless the car is in park and at a complete stop.

—Eating or drinking: Taking hands off the wheel to enjoy that drive-thru meal can be a mistake. Looking down at food and removing hands from the wheel reduces one’s ability to steer and react immediately to sudden traffic hazards.

If drivers become knowledgeable of the significant hazards of distracted driving, they can make changes to improve overall safety. Completing certain tasks before leaving home or while the vehicle is parked can reduce the need to multi-task while driving.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load