July 22, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Accidents Caused By Distracted Driving

You may have heard about the risks of distracted driving before, but a New York Times article certainly makes the study of the problem a political issue.

I remember a very interesting study of car accidents that was performed using several cameras mounted on cars, accelerometers, a satellite link, and computer monitoring to spot accidents and refer them to analysts to accurately identify the causes.

What did they learn? Fatigue was a much bigger problem than the official accident data showed. (Watch the movie below.)

Also, the riskiest behavior (10 times more likely to have an accident) was reaching for something that was moving in the car.

Constant cell phone use is obviously a problem (4 times more likely to have an accident), but before we start outlawing cell phone use, we should think of all the other things that can distract the driver – reading billboards, tuning the radio, reading a newspaper, or putting on makeup) and make sure that we aren’t getting rid of one activity that will be replaced by another.

People need to understand that multitasking behind the wheel is dangerous and needs to be minimized. But making it a criminal act? What do you think?

Let’s see which of these distracted driving behaviors you would criminalize:

  1. Dialing a cell phone.
  2. Talking on a hand-held cell phone.
  3. Talking on a hands-free cell phone
  4. Texting on a cell phone
  5. Using a computer.
  6. Programming a GPS device.
  7. Tuning the radio.
  8. Talking to a passenger.
  9. Reaching for something that is moving.
  10. Smoking.
  11. Eating.
  12. Drinking from a container.
  13. Changing the air conditioning using a computer screen in the car.
  14. Getting something out of a purse.
  15. Putting on makeup.
  16. Reading a newspaper.
  17. Reading a billboard.
  18. Singing to a tune on the radio,
  19. Taking off a piece of clothing.
  20. Looking at the occupants of another car.

Note that all of these require some amount of attention and are, therefore, somewhat “distracting.”

Vote for the ones that you would make illegal by leaving a comment by clicking on the comment link below. Also, consider leaving a comment about your reasoning why some should be legal and others illegal.

I’m looking forward to viewing the results!

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