By Rebecca Carl, MD
When I first got my learner’s permit as a teenager, I felt like driving took so much energy and concentration. There were so many details to remember: adjusting my mirrors, signaling for lane changes, remembering which pedal was for gas and which was the brake. Now, for me and for most long-time drivers, driving feels easy and we perform these tasks subconsciously (though signaling for a lane change seems to be difficult to remember for quite a few folks in the Chicago area).
Even though driving seems like second nature to many people, driving is a complex task that uses several different regions in the brain. Distracted driving means performing tasks that compete for the attention required to operate a motor vehicle. I’ve seen drivers engaged in many other activities while behind the wheel such as putting on makeup, shaving or looking at a map.
And now that smart devices are nearly universal, talking on the phone and texting while driving have become commonplace. Distracted driving can involve:
Here are 10 eye-opening facts about distracted driving:
While most states regulate cell phone use and prohibit texting while driving, many of the laws were enacted before smart phones were commonplace. In most areas, enforcement of prohibitions on cell phone and smart device is inconsistent.
Adolescent drivers have the highest rates of motor vehicle collisions due, in large part, to the fact that they are novice drivers. Teens and young adults are also the most likely to use devices while operating a motor vehicle. Parents can use smart devices to limit distracted driving. Apps like Live2txt and AT&T’s DriveMode prevent texting while driving and some will alert parents to dangerous driving behaviors. Parents and other adults can promote motor vehicle safety by talking to teens about distracted driving, and by modeling behavior and devoting their full attention to the road.
Dr. Rebecca Carl is an attending physician in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine.