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Dangers of distracted driving

Published on April 28, 2015

Dangers of distracted driving

Mackensey Stang, Injury Prevention Specialist
CentraCare Health

Distracted DriverThe fact is not new to us — distracted driving is dangerous. With so many new pieces of mobile technology, it is nearly impossible to ‘unplug’. Unfortunately for many of us, that includes our time spent driving.

I have committed myself to never text or browse the web while driving (I am an injury prevention specialist, after all. What a hypocrite I would I be if I didn’t practice what I preach!?) In my own experience, I have found my drive home is a great time to call my mom to catch up and talk about our day. After the purchase of a new vehicle last fall, I was in heaven. For the first time, Bluetooth media allowed me to talk hands-free and I thought I was being a good, focused driver by having phone conversations without lifting a finger off the wheel.

That was my belief, until I started doing research in preparation for Distracted Driving Awareness Month. There are more than 30 studies that show hands-free phone use while driving is no safer than handheld. 30 studies! Confusion with this finding is understandable. Many states are outlawing all cell phone use except for hands-free and most new vehicles now come equipped with Bluetooth devices. If it is legal and vehicles are practically encouraging the behavior by giving us the equipment, it must be safe, right? Not necessarily.
There are three areas of focus: visual, manual and cognitive. Even though hands-free cell phone use frees up two of these areas, our minds are still being taken off of the road when we talk on the phone. And, while our eyes are technically “free,” studies show that our sight of the road is decreased by up to 50 percent, which is often referred to as “inattention blindness.”

So, is hands-free phone use really keeping us from being distracted? Unfortunately for those of us who love our cell phones, the answer is no. To take things one step further, driving simulation studies have shown that people talking on their cell phones have slower reaction times than people who blow a .08 alcohol level. The facts don’t lie; people talking on their cell phones are as dangerous on the road, if not more, than an intoxicated driver.

I am committing to put down the phone while driving, once and for all. I didn’t have a cell phone glued to my hip when I first started driving, and I definitely know that my parents and grandparents didn’t either. And guess what? The world didn’t end because they missed a phone call. But today, your world just might end if you decide to pick up the phone behind the wheel. Join me in promising to drive cell phone free, and together, we can work towards making the roadways a safer place.

Information taken from

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About the Author

Mackensey StangMackensey Stang
BLEND Program Specialist
CentraCare Health

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