Ask a Health Care Professional: Distracted Driving

Dr. Eugene Sun, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico vice president and chief medical officer, addresses the dangers of distracted driving. These can include texting and talking on cell phones, applying makeup, eating and shaving.

Show Transcript
EUGENE SUN: Did you know that in 2016 there were over 37,000 fatalities from highway crashes in the United States, and that of those, almost 3,500 deaths were the result of distracted driving? Hi, I’m Dr. Eugene Sun, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. Distracted driving occurs when the driver is doing anything that diverts their attention from driving.
Unfortunately it is occurring more and more frequently and is a very preventable cause of injuries and death. The statistics behind distracted driving are stunning. In 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes as a result of a distracted driver. We have all seen examples of this dangerous behavior, with people eating, shaving, applying makeup, talking on cell phones, and especially texting. 25% of motor vehicle crashes involved use of a cell phone, either calling or texting. Driving safety experts categorize distracted driving into three types; manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual distractions involve any action in which one removes ones hands from the steering wheel. Visual distractions involve moving the focus of your eyes to anywhere other than the road you are driving on. Cognitive distractions involve anything where your mind wanders and is not focused on the complex task of driving safely. Unfortunately, distracted driving by teenagers is a very high cause for crashes and deaths on the road. Teenagers do not have as much driving experience, their attention spans are not as developed as adults, and they do not understand as well the significance of driving at highway speeds. Being distracted for one second at 55 miles per hour can put a vehicle off course about 80 feet. That is more than enough to cross over a center divider or go off the side of the road and creating deadly collisions or rollovers. The American Automobile Association has several tips to avoid distracted driving on its website. The key general rule is that if there is anything preventing you from focusing your full attention on driving; take care of whatever it is before or after your trip. Do not take care of it while you’re behind the wheel in a moving vehicle. Too many people and families have suffered injuries or lost loved ones. By avoiding driving while distracted, you are doing your part to keep yourself, your loved ones, and people in your community safe and sound!