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Distracted driving shares similarities with drunk driving


The dangers of drunk driving are well known to many Pottsville residents. For example, last week, this blog discussed the impact alcohol has on a person's ability to drive at various levels of blood alcohol concentration.

What is far less apparent to many is that a distracted driver can function, or rather malfunction, in much the same way as a drunk driver does, with both having the potential to cause serious injury to others on the road. Indeed, more than 9 people are killed every single day in the country by crashes involving a distracted driver, and another 1,153 people are injured every day.

The similarities between distracted driving and drunk driving are not only in the injuries and deaths caused but in the effect on the driver. Distracted driving often involves visual distraction, where the driver's eyesight is taken off the road to look at a cell phone or other device. This visual distraction can pose significant problems, particularly when the driver is travelling at high rates of speed, because a vast amount of distance can be travelled in a matter of seconds.

Aside from visual distractions, distracted driving can also involve manual distractions because the motorist's hands may be taken off the wheel. A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that almost a third of drivers reported reading or sending a text message while driving, which involves removing one's hands from the wheel to type.

Even when a person's vision and hands are kept in their proper location, distracted driving can still pose problems because of the cognitive distractions that occur. For instance, the CDC study found that almost 70 percent of drivers reported talking on their cell phone. Many individuals might use hands-free devices, which are thought to be safer. In reality, the person's mind is still taken off of driving while using hands-free devices, which means they are not cognitively processing what is taking place ahead of them on the road. Accordingly, in this sense, distracted driving can be like drunk driving because the person's driving capabilities and judgment are impaired.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, "Distracted driving," accessed on Jan. 2, 2016

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