Published: Nov 27, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 26, 2011 09:33 AM
There is one thing that most of us will be doing more this holiday season: driving, usually with multiple distractions in the backseat.
Whether you're headed over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house or fighting the traffic to get to the airport, it's easy to get distracted by squirming kids, toppling presents and a GPS that has to recalculate your destination eight times. These conditions set the stage for a crash. All it takes is a fraction of a second to go from distracted holiday traveler to crash-test dummy.
The holiday season is one of the riskiest times to be on the road, with injury and fatal crashes spiking in late November and December. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, 20 percent of all injury crashes in 2009 were due to distracted driving. For distracted-driver crashes leading to fatalities, 18 percent were caused by the driver using a cell phone.
We live in the age of constant updates and immediate responses. Yet this constant accessibility comes at a steep price - the lives, well-being and safety of ourselves and those we love. Drivers who use cellphones while behind the wheel are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others, according to the NHTSA. Teen drivers are especially at risk of getting in a crash. Drivers younger than age 20 have the highest proportion of deadly crashes due to distractions compared to other age groups, according to the NHTSA.
Distracted driving can take on many forms, ranging from eating and drinking to reading a map (distraction.gov
). Any one of these distractions could cause a crash, and multiple distractions make crashes all the more likely.
So what can you do?
Review directions or program your GPS before you put the key in the ignition.
Turn your phone on silent while driving and put it somewhere you can't reach it. Take the opportunity to call or check texts at rest stops.
Kids in the car? Make sure they have everything they'll need for the trip within their reach.
Don't zone out. If you're driving for multiple hours, make stops to rest or stretch at least every two hours.
If you're a passenger, encourage the person driving to cut out distractions, especially cellphone use. Help them accomplish this by taking care of any potential distractions.We all have a responsibility to keep our roads safe this holiday season. Driving distracted is not only a danger to us and those traveling with us, but also everyone else on the roads.
So when you're stuck in traffic behind a tractor trailer on Thanksgiving morning and your cellphone is ringing off the hook because Uncle Ray forgot how to get to grandmother's house, remember this: Put it down.
Whatever it is, it can wait.
Finkbeiner, who lives in Cary, is a graduate student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health studying Health Behavior and Health Education.