If you’ve noticed an increased law enforcement presence on roads and highways this month, you’re not imagining things. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In the spirit of the occasion, the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the dangerous behavior and issuing more citations than usual.
Despite significant research into the dangers of distracted driving, public misconceptions persist. In today’s post, we’ll try to dispel a few of these myths.
The first misconception is that hands-free devices are safer than handheld cellphones. According to the National Safety Council, approximately 80 percent of Americans believe this to be true. But some 30 studies have shown that hands-free devices are no safer than handheld devices. In both cases, the brain is distracted and attention is diverted away from driving.
The second misconception has to do with multitasking, which is at the heart of distracted driving. Most people believe themselves to be good at multitasking. But when it comes to doing more than one task that requires thinking and attention, no one is actually as good as they assume they are. In fact, drivers who engage in a cellphone conversation (handheld or hands-free) are four times more likely to get into a car accident, compared to focused drivers.
Finally, just over half of Americans mistakenly believe that dashboard “infotainment” systems must be safe because they are built into the vehicle. These systems help sell new vehicles, but they don’t improve safety. As we noted above, hands-free is not the same thing as distraction-free.
If you’d like to learn more about distracted driving or would like more information to share with others, there are many resources available online. You can start by visiting the National Safety Council’s website on Distracted Driving Awareness Month.