Pokémon Go may not seem like the most dangerous activity in America, but, along with daydreaming and making out, collecting Poké Balls may be one of the deadliest pursuits around—at least if you hunt down virtual creatures while you’re barreling down the road at a cool 80 miles per hour!
Experts have a name for people who insist on pursuing their favorite hobbies while trying to operate a vehicle—they’re called “distracted drivers,” and they’re wreaking havoc on the nation’s highways and byways. Run into one of these all-stars on the road and, at the very least, you’ll have to rush off to the nearest car wash or auto detailing shop to fix up all the scratches and dents left behind by someone else’s carelessness. At worst, you’ll be making a one-way trip to the emergency room.
You’d think it would be obvious. There’s practically a law of physics that says you’re not allowed to strum your guitar while you steer a few thousand pounds of steel down the road, unless you want to know the original meaning of heavy metal. Along with lowering all of your windows right before you enter a full-service car wash, putting on mascara or eating a double-double cheeseburger while driving are both part of the pantheon of all-time best (or worst) driving fails.
Yet the vast majority of vehicle crashes occur as a result of distracted driving—nearly 80 percent, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So, what’s the deal? Why are thousands of people killed every year (8 people every day, according to the CDC) in crashes involving distracted driving?1 Why were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 injured in 2014 alone?2
Rules, Rules, Rules
Perhaps distracted driving is such a problem because most of us think the warnings apply to all those other people, certainly not to us. After all, college students are experts at multitasking, aren’t they? What self-respecting university student can’t juggle Intro to English Lit and a cup of morning coffee while nailing a hairpin turn?
Sadly, most can’t. In fact, ten percent of fatal accidents involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 19-years-old were caused by distractions. It may not be popular to speak of “rules of the road,” but death is a steep price to pay for a little air guitar.
Unfortunately, there are as many distractions as there are drivers. Studies have cited everything from going to the bathroom (yes, you read that right) to scratching off lottery tickets as causes of collisions. Despite the multiplicity of guises, there are some basic principles at work. Namely, there are three hard and fast rules for ensuring you don’t end up like a flattened pancake on the asphalt. They go something like this:
- Keep your eyes on the road
- Keep your mind on the task of driving
- Keep your hands on the wheel
Of course, some people prefer the fast life. Some enjoy the air of danger that comes with texting and driving. If you’re one of the many who likes to play Russian Roulette with your vehicle, there are at least six things you can do to ensure you end up a statistic.
When you think of distracted driving, the first thought that pops into your head is probably texting. While chatting it up with your best friend is certainly a major cause of accidents (more on that later), it is not the number one culprit. That dubious distinction belongs to daydreaming.
Who would have thunk, but daydreaming is the single leading cause of distracted driving accidents. Letting your mind wander off to Mars is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than letting your eyes leave the road. According to one study conducted by Erie Insurance, daydreaming is responsible for 62 percent of all distracted driving incidents.3 Imagining yourself lounging on a beach on balmy summer day may seem perfectly harmless, yet it violates golden rule number two—keep your mind on the task at hand.
#2: “Use a Phone”
Smart phones are great for just about everything, including getting you into a fender bender. Although cell phone usage only leads to roughly 12 percent of distracted driving accidents, it still ranks high among preventable causes of roadway mishaps.
With 169.3 billion text messages flying back and forth every month in the U.S., it’s no wonder drivers are wandering all over the road.4 Of course, it’s not only texting that causes problems. There are a gazillion different ways to get sidetracked on your mobile device. From Snapchatting with your BFF and calling your mother to playing Tetris and finding the ever elusive Pokémon, the possibilities are nearly limitless. According to the Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving, at any given moment 660,000 Americans are fiddling with their electronic devices while trying to navigate the nation’s roads.
In the five seconds it takes to post that latest selfie on Instagram while traveling at 55 mph, you will have traveled the length of a football field. In that short time, a rambunctious dog could run out into the middle of the street in front of you. If you don’t want to be the one to tell the neighbors that you flattened their precious Fluffy, then it might be best to leave the phone in its holster until you can pull over.
#3: “Put on Makeup”
We’ve all seen that woman—you know, the one who insists on steering the car with her knees as she applies a smattering of blush to her cheeks. Maybe some of us have been that woman. Sometimes it’s hard to resist. If you’re due at that chemistry lecture and have minus five minutes to spare, multitasking may seem like the perfect time-saver. Of course, it’s also the perfect way to get into a car crash. With your eyes on the mirror, your hands on the makeup case, and your mind on the thought of how good you look, you might as well just drive the car into a wall at breakneck speed.
#4: “Brush Your Teeth”
Women aren’t the only culprits, and makeup isn’t the only bit of hygiene people practice on the highway. It may seem ridiculous, but people have been known to freshen up their teeth while hurtling down the interstate. From flossing to brushing their teeth, cleaning is apparently a popular pastime. While it’s good to know that dental hygiene is so high on the list of priorities, it might be a bit more comforting to know that people place driving safety just a smidgeon higher on that list.
#5: “Have an Emotional Breakdown”
It’s probably the least preventable activity on the list, but it’s still worth mentioning. Emotional breakdowns can happen for any number of reasons—breakups, tragedies, family disputes, stress. Most of us have suffered some form of emotional disturbance at some point in our lives, but we can hope it doesn’t happen at 70 miles per hour.
If the floodgates do open while you’re out and about in a vehicle, it’s best to pull over to the side of the road and let the wave of emotion pass. That way there won’t be a car accident to freak out about on top of everything else.
While there may not be anything wrong with getting kinky in public, there is definitely something wrong with getting it on inside a moving vehicle. Public displays of affection are best done while both parties are relatively stationary, or at least while both parties are moving at speeds less than 50 miles per hour. Next time, if you do feel the need to make out in the middle of a road trip, try finding a dark, empty lot and putting the car in park first.
A World Full of Distractions
There are umpteen other distractions out there, from putting on contact lenses to changing clothes. Driving requires both body and mind, yet all too often people use neither. It would probably take a book to list all of the things people do while they’re speeding down the highways and byways of the country. Suffice it to say, deadly distractions can take many forms—anything that prevents drivers from focusing on the task at hand.
Cobblestone Auto Spa’s Commitment to Road Safety
At Cobblestone Auto Spa, we care about the safety of all of our customers. We want everyone to leave our carwash with their vehicles shiny and their bodies in one piece. We also care about the wellbeing of everyone in our community. With more than ten locations throughout Arizona, many of which are near colleges and schools, we take road safety seriously. That’s why we ask all our loyal customers to exit our drive thru car wash with their hands on the wheel and their head screwed on tight.