Smoking can be a fatal driver distraction

pCarInDitchWinter_4102911_sSome Illinois motorists, as well as motorists in other states across the country, enjoy having a cigarette while driving. The act of smoking and driving, however, is considered a distractive behavior and may lead to a devastating car accident. According to Property Casualty 360, researchers performed a comprehensive review of law enforcement officers’ crash report notes that involved a minimum of one fatality. They found that 1 percent of distracted drivers involved in a car accident causing death were smoking and driving when the accident occurred.

Distracted driving facts

Distractive behaviors, such as smoking while driving, were responsible for killing 3,328 people in 2012, and injuring an additional 421,000 people, according to distraction.gov, the official U.S. Governments website dedicated to distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one in every 10 motor vehicle accidents involves a distracted driver. Research performed by the National Institutes of Health found that motorists who smoke and drive are one and a half times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision than motorists who do not smoke while driving.

Defining distractive behavior

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as engaging in any type of activity that diverts a motorist’s focus off of driving. There are three types of distractions, including the following:

  • Manual distractions require the driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel.
  • Visual distractions involve the driver removing their eyes from the road.
  • Cognitive distractions occur when a driver’s mental focus is on something other than driving and the motorist is not paying attention to the road.

Smoking and driving has the potential to involve all three types of distractions. Not only do smokers use their hands to hold and light their cigarettes, many take their eyes off of the road while searching for their things. Smoking can also be a significant source of cognitive distraction, as many smokers tend to zone out while enjoying a cigarette.

Studies from the National Safety Council found that people who are cognitively distracted may experience inattention blindness, or failure to see up to 50 percent of information in their driving environment. Inattention blindness can result in a decreased response time when faced with an emergency driving situation, such as an object in the road, sudden traffic or another motorist’s behavior.

In addition to smoking and driving, there are many other distractions that can endanger motorists on the road. They include texting, talking on a cellphone, grooming, using a navigation system, picking up an item off of the floor, eating, drinking and adjusting the CD player or radio.

Driver distractions can have severe consequences when people are multi-tasking behind the wheel.