Drivers believe they can multi-task while driving

no_textingTexting while driving is illegal in all 50 states. The AAA reports results of their study that using voice commands to send text messages and emails from behind the wheel, is actually more distracting and dangerous than simply talking on a cellphone. In the State of Nevada, you may NOT talk on a phone, by holding it to your ear, or read or send text messages, emails, or other forms of electronic communication, while you are behind the wheel operating a motor vehicle.  The only exception to this is if you are using a Bluetooth device.  If you are cited for cell phone use, you are charged with a misdemeanor, and must pay a fine of $50 for the first offense.  DMV is instructed by this law, not to treat this first offense as a moving violation.  You must wait 7 years for this violation to drop from your record, or, if you are charged a second time during that 7 years, you must pay $100 and DMV will treat it as a moving violation.  The third time you are caught talking/texting while driving, during that 7 year period, the fine is $250.  These fines may double if you are tagged in a designated work zone. Receiving a reckless driving conviction from texting while driving in Nevada can result in being required to take a DUI course such as those offered by ABC Drive Safe.

In today’s demanding world, the majority of drivers believe that they can do two or more jugglingtasks at the same time while driving. Multitasking while driving was reported by a 2008 study at Virginia Tec that found that drivers who text message while behind the wheel are 32 times more likely to be involved in a car crash.

Consider another fact: studies have also found that drivers who text face a slowed reaction time by 35%, which is 3 times longer than the reaction time of drunk drivers. Having a cell phone conversation while you’re driving or text messaging has become the nation’s  deadliest driving distraction. Thousands of people die each year because someone thought that a message had to be sent right then.  The results: texting or using voice commands is more distracting than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The CDC pushes statistics that show over 424,000 accidents from injuries drivers, compared to 9,967 injuries from drunk driving.

Scientific studies have confirmed that even talking on a hands-free cell phone is just as distracting as holding one to your ear. This strongly suggests it is the conversation that is distracting. Interestingly, studies have also found that a conversation with a passenger did not distract the driver unless they were under the age of 24.

Nationally, 45% of fatal crashes in 2010 involved a driver talking on a hands-free or Bluetooth device. If you are compelled to have a conversation, pull over to the side of the road and take the 2 or 3 minutes to have a coherent conversation with the person on the other end of the phone.  Place your cell phone out of reach so you won’t be tempted to answer while driving.

It has been estimated by some researchers that for every mile that a vehicle travels, the driver will on average make 20 separate decisions related to arriving at their destination. Therefore it makes sense that the faster you go, the quicker you have to make driving decisions or completely overlook a critical decision entirely.  It should be self-evident that impaired drivers also tend to make poor or no decisions while their car is in motion. Military pilots are trained not to focus on any one object for more than a second.  But, drivers are not. Known as “Target Fixation“, it is common for a driver’s eyes to narrow their focus on a single object for a period of time, ignoring everything else on the road. An example of this is focusing on the license plate of the vehicle in front for several seconds. When focused on any single object for an extended length of time  is known as a loss of Situational Awareness.” Driving is not an intermittent activity, but requires 100% of your attention while the car is in motion.  When you are focused on one object for more than a second or two, you become a real hazard to everyone else on the road. Research has demonstrated that the majority of vehicle crashes will happen when a driver’s eyes are distracted from the road for  3 secs or more. So, how long is 3 secs?  Just 6 snaps of your fingers.

When you look away from the road for a couple of moments, it can take you up to several seconds to reacquire situational awareness. Situational awareness is defined as the perception of the environment you are driving in at that moment and the understanding of what is happening, while able to predict what changes on the road may happen in the next few seconds.