Stay Focused: Distracted Driving and Walking Can Come with Deadly Consequences

Organization: Author:
Desiree Thomas, RN, MSN, TCRN, program director, Trauma Center, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center

Distracted driving is dangerous. In 2017 alone, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 people. Distracted driving is defined as driving while multitasking or completing another activity that takes your attention away from safe driving.

Sending a text message, talking on a digital device, using a navigation system, fiddling with the radio, eating, reaching behind the seat for a toy for your child — these are all examples of distracted driving. These seemingly innocent tasks can endanger your life, the lives of your passengers and fellow commuters on the road.

The issues with mobile device use are not limited to texting — multiple behaviors, such as using social media, messaging apps, navigation, and music, have the potential to draw attention away from the road. Using a device while driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three of the main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

When you send or read a text message or like a social media post, you’re taking your eyes off the road for about five seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Despite many states, including California, having enacted laws to ban texting while driving and people recognizing that talking or texting on a cell phone or using social media apps while driving is unsafe, they often engage in these behaviors anyway.

If you are a parent, you should lead by example by never driving distracted. Talk to younger drivers about distractions and all the responsibilities that come with driving. The best way to prevent accidents is to be educated on how dangerous driving while distracted is.

Pedestrian Safety
Pedestrian fatalities remain high. While there was a 1.7 percent decrease in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2017, pedestrian fatalities still totaled 5,977 deaths. Drivers and pedestrians share the responsibility of keeping themselves and others safe on the road. At some point, everyone is a pedestrian. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your loves ones when walking to prevent pedestrian injury or death:

  • Be seen — wear bright clothes or materials to make you more visible to others.
  • Look left-right-left and behind for traffic before crossing a driveway or road.
  • Cross in marked crosswalks, at corners, or at intersections.
  • Do not step into the roadway until the driver has stopped for you, or has acknowledged your intent to cross with eye contact, a wave or a nod.
  • Just like when you’re driving, while walking you should stay focused and alert. No texting, listening to music or anything that takes your eyes, ears, or your mind, off the road and traffic.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.

Everyone should use the skills above and encourage others to do the same. In the event of an emergency call 911 immediately. For more resources on community education and injury prevention, visit memorialcare.org/Trauma.

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