It's no secret that distracted driving is hurting us. It's causing wrecks, injuries and unfortunately, even deaths. Here in Dallas-Fort Worth, it's estimated that 25 percent of all wrecks are caused by distractions.
When we think about "distracted driving," cell phones often come to mind, but phones aren't the only obstacles taking our eyes off the road. There are plenty of other driving distractions like GPS, eating and drinking, applying makeup and yes, even smoking. Very little attention has been paid to the drivers who smoke behind the wheel, but a little digging uncovers some pretty important statistics.
According to a study by AAA, smoking cigarettes accounts for about one percent of all distracted driving auto accidents. One percent doesn't sound like a whole lot until you think about how many people it affects. If we're a nation with three million accidents a year, and a third of them are caused by distracted driving, and one percent of those are caused from smoking, that's 1,000 accidents a year. One hundred and fifty of those wrecks will be fatal, statistically. It's needless.
The National Institutes of Heath published a report that examined the impact of smoking while driving and its consequences on road safety. The study found that, on average, people who smoke while driving are even more distracted than people who use a cell phone. Cigarette smokers averaged 12.0 seconds of distraction (which is like traveling 525 feet without looking at the road), while cell phone users averaged 10.6 seconds of distraction (traveling 492 feet).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration heavily discourages smoking while driving in its training material for CDL drivers. Remember, CDL drivers are driving trucks - their job already poses more danger without additional distractions. The FMCSA conducted its own 5-year study into the dangers of smoking while driving a truck and similarly discovered that smoking was a source of distraction in 0.9 percent of distraction-related crashes.
It should be noted that not all signs point to danger. A double-blind study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of cigarette smoking during a driving simulation (the drivers were using a computer, not an actual car). The study examined tracking and break reaction times, asking the question: does nicotine hurt or enhance a driver's performance?
The result, interestingly, showed that cigarette smoking may improve driving performance since it enhances cognitive and psychomotor function.
However - and this is a big however - this assumes that the nicotine just floated into a person's system. There was no lighting the cigarette, no fumbling with the pack, no eyes off the road. That, of course, is when accidents happen.
In order to be as safe as possible, drivers must have their full attention and focus on the road ahead. Smoking causes a number of distractions including a visual distraction while searching for cigarettes and a lighter, cognitive distraction as the brain focuses on lighting a cigarette, and manual distraction as both hands are removed from the wheel to light a cigarette. Once the cigarette is lit, the driver must keep one hand off the steering wheel to smoke, and they'll use their concentration to expel ash into the car's cigarette tray or out the window. The entire process of lighting and smoking a cigarette while driving is extremely dangerous.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a Dallas-Fort Worth auto wreck caused by a driver who was smoking while driving, know that Texas law gives you the right to recover money to cover your medical expenses, lost wages due to hospitalization, and compensation for the pain and suffering you've endured.
To speak with a board certified personal injury attorney today, please call the Anderson Law Firm toll free at 800-354-6275 or locally at 817-294-1900.