Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving. A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. This behavior can endanger the driver, passengers and bystanders.
Distracted driving can include a myriad of activities, including:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Looking at a GPS system
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Adjusting the radio
- Reaching for items elsewhere in the car
“Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver,” says Dr. Terry Bagley, Assistant Medical Director at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. The organization also reports that nearly 660,000 drivers are using cell phones during daylight hours while driving.
“That’s a lot of people not paying attention to the road, and provides a lot of opportunity for injuries,” Bagley says. “As a physician, I’ve seen some of the effects of distracted driving first-hand, including orthopedic, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries.”
A brain injury occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head. In a vehicle accident, this can occur when an airbag deploys or a person hits the windshield or steering wheel. All brain injuries are serious and can affect a person’s cognitive or physical abilities. They also can result in behavioral or emotional impairments as well.
“Recovery can be a long process,” Bagley says. “While I’m glad to be part of a team at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital that can treat individuals recovering from serious injuries, I’d rather see these types of injuries prevented.”
“I think we all need to remove – or at minimum limit -- distractions while we’re driving and pay closer attention to the road,” he continues. “The easiest thing to do is to turn off the cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. This one simple step can be an easy way to save lives and prevent injuries.”