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More than texting: The unrecognized epidemic of distracted driving

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This story is sponsored by End Text Wrecks. Learn more about End Text Wrecks.


For the past decade, the road has seen a dramatic shift in the number and causes of car collisions. The modern world provides so many reasons to look away from the road while commuting or running a quick errand, and, unfortunately, these distractions are all that's necessary for a serious accident.

Texting and cellphones are at the heart of many moments of distracted driving, but many other innocent activities you do every day without thinking can be just as dangerous.

Because 80 percent of all car crashes involved some sort of distracted driving, finding out more about all of the types of distractions you can have in your day-to-day commute can help you and your loved ones commit to focusing while driving and prevent accidents.

Texting and phone apps

The type of distracted driving that has been increasingly addressed by law enforcement outreach and safe-driving initiatives is cellphone use. Many people think that glancing at their texts, emails, or inputting an address into their GPS applications are harmless — all of us have been guilty of this at some point. But these types of cellphone related activities are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year. A half-million injuries and 6,000 deaths result from these incidents of distracted driving, all of which might have been prevented had the driver pulled over or had someone else in the car use the device.

Adjusting music and temperature

Cars today are much more than metal containers with wheels and an engine. Vehicles have lots of options for adjusting temperature, finding the perfect soundtrack for the drive or even playing movies for kids in the back seat. While these features are wonderful for making long trips less boring and sweltering summers bearable, getting too complacent with the amounts of adjustments made per car trip can greatly increase the chances of an accident.

As much as people like to think of their cars as familiar, safe environments, they are also incredibly dangerous when not operated responsibly. If a child or animal runs into the road, a driver has a split second to react. In 2014, more than 3,000 people were killed in collisions involving distracted drivers. When your car is parked in your driveway, taking a few seconds to set your car's temperature and choosing an album to listen to for the entirety of your drive can keep you from needing to look away from the road. This can also make a drive a relaxing chance to only focus on a single activity, which is a luxury in this day and age, if you think about it.

Getting ready for the day

Everyone has had a day when nothing seemed to go right. Your morning alarm doesn't go off and you're worried about getting written up for being late. Rushing to the car, you grab your makeup and toothbrush, hoping you can get yourself into a presentable state before you walk into work.

According to a 2015 survey by Erie Insurance, many drivers admitted to brushing their teeth, putting on makeup and changing clothes behind the wheel. The thought of someone else pulling a sweater over their head while operating a speeding piece of metal is terrifying, but somehow it's easier to justify when it's you in a once-in-a-blue-moon situation.

Getting ready for the day, even at traffic lights counts as distracted driving. What if you're putting on lipstick in your car mirror and hit the gas, rear-ending the car in front of you? As much as everyone does to justify these moments to themselves as necessary, getting into an accident will guarantee you're late to work.

Even one death is too many

When everyone realizes the scale and severity of what's at stake with distracted driving, it's easier to put down the toothbrush and cellphone and focus on the road. According to government studies, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor-vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Far too many lives are cut short by distracted driving and it needs to END. Stay tuned for November 23rd — something big is going to happen to help End Text Wrecks. Visit endtextwrecks.org for more information.