Distractions lead to car accidents

By Katherine Brachelli
December 1, 2006

Brenda K. Colwell

After a week of partying and cramming for finals before winter break begins, Eileen Kuter, a junior biology major at Millersville University, packs her bags for her two-hour haul home to recuperate after the long school week. Kuter recalls driving in a state of drowsiness and being greatly distracted on her way home. She had no idea that her drowsy state would end up in the surprising awakening of her car being totaled because she could no longer focus on the road.

After driving into a divider on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Kuter said, “I’ll never drive again when I’m that tired. It happened in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it still scares me to drive home on long car rides now.”

Kuter was one of the individuals who fall into the 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes that occur because of being involved in some form of driver inattention whether it is drowsiness or cell phone use. Driving drowsy or while distracted are the two biggest accident risks on the road, according to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although no one was hurt in Kuter’s car accident, the memory of her car being slammed into a divider is one that continuously haunts her. Kuter admitted that having no transportation for almost a month did not really bother her, because she feared getting behind the steering wheel of a car for almost two weeks.

Drowsiness is a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash. The NHTSA also reported that driving drowsy may be significantly under-reported in police crash investigations.

“This important research illustrates the potentially dire consequences that can occur while driving distracted or drowsy. It’s crucial that drivers always be alert when on the road,” said Jacqueline Glassman, administrator of NHTSA

Kuter said, “It’s so easy to become distracted while driving but now when I drive home from school I’m much more alert.”

Now when Kuter drives home from school she has a friend accompany her to keep her awake, she brings a cup of coffee for the car ride and she makes sure that she is well rested.

The second most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones. Although some states are now making it a law that an individual is not permitted to talk on his or her cell phone while driving, the number of crashes and near-crashes attributable to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening, according to the NHTSA.

Laurissa Gendel, a senior business administration major, said, “Using cell phones while driving should be banned. It’s so frustrating when people are driving and talking on their cell phones and they cut me off because they are not paying attention.”

The NHSTA also reported that reaching for a moving object increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times. In addition, contributing factors to an increased risk of a crash were activities such as looking at an external object, which increased the risk of a crash by 3.7 times; reading by 3 times; applying makeup by 3 times; dialing a hand-held device, typically a cell phone, by almost 3 times; and talking or listening on a hand-held device by 1.3 times.

Gendel also said, “I can see why people use there cell phones while driving because everyone has so much to do. Sometimes I even find myself distracted when I drive because I talk on my cell phone and I do other things.”

Tanesha Bates, a junior English and communication major, said, “We have to do so many things to keep up and to be on time. I think that’s why so many people talk on their phones, put on make-up or read while they drive.”

Drivers are often unable to predict when it is safe to look away from the road to multi-task because the situation can change abruptly, leaving the driver no time to react, even when looking away from the forward roadway for only a brief time, reported the NHSTA.

Kuter said, “I’ll never forget the day I was in that accident. It was horrible but at least now I’ll pay more attention to the road when I drive.”

After a week of partying and cramming for finals before winter break begins, Eileen Kuter, a junior biology major at Millersville University, packs her bags for her two-hour haul home to recuperate after the long school week. Kuter recalls driving in a state of drowsiness and being greatly distracted on her way home. She had no idea that her drowsy state would end up in the surprising awakening of her car being totaled because she could no longer focus on the road.

After driving into a divider on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Kuter said, “I’ll never drive again when I’m that tired. It happened in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it still scares me to drive home on long car rides now.”

Kuter was one of the individuals who fall into the 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes that occur because of being involved in some form of driver inattention whether it is drowsiness or cell phone use. Driving drowsy or while distracted are the two biggest accident risks on the road, according to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although no one was hurt in Kuter’s car accident, the memory of her car being slammed into a divider is one that continuously haunts her. Kuter admitted that having no transportation for almost a month did not really bother her, because she feared getting behind the steering wheel of a car for almost two weeks.

Drowsiness is a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash. The NHTSA also reported that driving drowsy may be significantly under-reported in police crash investigations.

“This important research illustrates the potentially dire consequences that can occur while driving distracted or drowsy. It’s crucial that drivers always be alert when on the road,” said Jacqueline Glassman, administrator of NHTSA

Kuter said, “It’s so easy to become distracted while driving but now when I drive home from school I’m much more alert.”

Now when Kuter drives home from school she has a friend accompany her to keep her awake, she brings a cup of coffee for the car ride and she makes sure that she is well rested.

The second most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones. Although some states are now making it a law that an individual is not permitted to talk on his or her cell phone while driving, the number of crashes and near-crashes attributable to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening, according to the NHTSA.

Laurissa Gendel, a senior business administration major, said, “Using cell phones while driving should be banned. It’s so frustrating when people are driving and talking on their cell phones and they cut me off because they are not paying attention.”

The NHSTA also reported that reaching for a moving object increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times. In addition, contributing factors to an increased risk of a crash were activities such as looking at an external object, which increased the risk of a crash by 3.7 times; reading by 3 times; applying makeup by 3 times; dialing a hand-held device, typically a cell phone, by almost 3 times; and talking or listening on a hand-held device by 1.3 times.

Gendel also said, “I can see why people use there cell phones while driving because everyone has so much to do. Sometimes I even find myself distracted when I drive because I talk on my cell phone and I do other things.”

Tanesha Bates, a junior English and communication major, said, “We have to do so many things to keep up and to be on time. I think that’s why so many people talk on their phones, put on make-up or read while they drive.”

Drivers are often unable to predict when it is safe to look away from the road to multi-task because the situation can change abruptly, leaving the driver no time to react, even when looking away from the forward roadway for only a brief time, reported the NHSTA.

Kuter said, “I’ll never forget the day I was in that accident. It was horrible but at least now I’ll pay more attention to the road when I drive.”

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Katherine Brachelli

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