Let's say you're driving down a West Virginia highway and your cellphone rings. It's not just any ring either; it's the one you customized for your mother, who recently had major surgery and is recovering at home. What if she needs something?
Perhaps you think you've found a legitimate compromise by putting your phone on speaker so you don't have to hold it while you're driving. Reaching down quickly to grab and answer it won’t really “distract” you from the road, right?
On the contrary, taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can result in catastrophe. For example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s equivalent to driving an entire football field blindfolded.
The bottom line is that using a hand-held cellphone while driving is a major distraction that has been known to cause devastating consequences. It’s also illegal in West Virginia.
Recognizing distracted driving
Distracted driving comes in many forms, not just by answering a phone call. Drivers can also get distracted by:
- Checking GPS devices: GPS devices are one of many modern inventions that have made traveling more convenient; however, such devices pose a risk to pedestrians and motorists alike. Even if you never touch a cellphone while driving, if you use a GPS to navigate, it distracts you every time you glance at the device. Even listening to the audible voice instructions can be distracting.
- Taking selfies: With the rise of social media and the increasing lure of becoming "internet famous," more and more people are taking photos or videos while driving. One study found that 20 percent of drivers regularly take photos while driving.
- Texting or checking social media: Some drivers avoid using cellphones or other electronic devices while driving but will check text messages or their Instagram account at stop lights or if traffic is at a standstill. Both issues may place you at risk for traffic violations and can also lead to injury if you are unaware that a light changes or traffic flow starts up again.
- Managing children: If you're a parent who regularly travels with children in tow, it's always a good idea to safely pull off the road before tending to their needs. It may seem that turning around to hand a toddler a snack or reaching behind you to adjust a car seat strap are benign, routine parenting behaviors. Studies show such distractions often result in collisions, however.
The problem is that you may adhere to all traffic and safety regulations, but there's not much you can do to stop other drivers from using cellphones or engaging in other distracted driving behavior.
If you suffer injury because another motorist was not paying attention to the road, it can take anywhere from days to weeks or months to get your life back on track. Some lives are forever changed by such negligence
If this happens to you, don't be afraid to reach out for support by tapping into any and all resources your community makes available for physical, emotional, medical and economic recovery.