Distracted Driving

Sep 19, 2013

Virginia has recently joined other states that want to reduce distracted driving accidents by passing a ban on texting while behind the wheel. But some drivers still don't get it and perform the act daily.

Just how safety advocates can help change that was the focus of the first annual Distracted Driving Summit in Richmond.

Teens are the most distracted drivers,  but many adults also take their eyes off the road. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Doctor Charlie Klauer points out that reaching for objects, making adjustments, and eating or drinking also impair drivers, but the use of mobile devices behind the wheel is on the rise.

"For truck drivers, texting while driving would increase their risk by 23-times that of an alert driver. For light vehicle drivers, it is in the order of four-to five times that of an alert driver, dialing is three times that of alert driver, reaching is eight times that of an alert driver. There's a wide variety of different tasks associated with using a wireless device that increases risk for drivers," said Klauer.

Klauer is one of the scientists who perform "naturalistic driving" studies that monitor drivers' daily habits. Sensor data and video monitoring help them determine what motorists do that contribute to crashes. Safety suggestions include promoting workplace campaigns where employers adopt a zero tolerance policy for texting while driving and raising teen driver awareness.  Some propose even tougher laws banning all use of mobile devices while driving.