Myths about distracted driving

Chevy Chase’s character in the pop culture classic “Summer Vacation” gets laughs behind the wheel as he sings, falls asleep and gets lost in East St. Louis.  The distracted driving scenes are funny on the big screen but not in real life.

Some 3,000 deaths annually are attributed to distraction-related car wrecks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency estimates about 100,000 people are texting and driving at any moment, and 600,000 are talking on cellphones.

Safety advocates are working to debunk distracted driving myths associated with distracted driving as they observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. Here are some:

Myth: A motorist who keeps both eyes on the road can’t be distracted.

Fact: A driver may be looking straight ahead but can be daydreaming or in deep thought and not paying attention to what is happening with traffic nearby. This sort of cognitive distraction, even though it seems harmless, can be a dangerous while driving.

Myth: Because my new car has a built-in infotainment system, it is safe.

Fact: Automotive technology such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, crash avoidance systems, adaptive headlights and stability control systems provide more safety. But technology that has nothing to do with car performance, including devices for hands-free phone use and speech-to-text devices for messaging, email and social media can be a serious distraction, according to the National Safety Council.

Myth: It is safe to speak text messages into my dashboard infotainment center while driving.

Fact: Even though auto manufacturers are installing more hands-free infotainment systems in vehicles, these systems can cause distractions. Research shows voice texting features can be more distracting than typing a text message, in part because motorists have to avert their eyes from the road to check messages and make sure they’re correct, the NSC reports.

Myth: Car problems such as bad brakes, blown tires and engine problems cause most crashes.

Fact: Malfunctions cause a small percentage of wrecks. Ninety percent of crashes stem from driver error, and cellphone use is becoming a leading contributor to motorist inattention on the road. Nine percent of drivers at any given daylight moment are talking on cellphones, according to the NSC, and they are four times more likely to be involved in a crash because they aren’t aware of the hazards around them. They may miss up to 50 percent of their surroundings, including signs, pedestrians and bicyclists.

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