Reaching for objects in your car when driving accounts for roughly 2% of all distracted driving crashes. These crashes are particularly common and particularly fatal for teen drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatality in the 15 – 20 age group. Teen drivers reaching for items in the vehicle are seven times more likely to be involved in a crash.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that when a teen driver’s eyes are not focused on the road, the risk of a crash increases by 28 percent. Teen drivers using a cell phone doubled the risk of a crash.
We should also note that teens are not the only drivers who reach for something in their vehicle while driving. Nor are these other (older) drivers significantly less likely to be in a crash. Most of us believe that experienced drivers can control the vehicle and reach for something elsewhere in the car. Sometimes we can.
Try an experiment, and ask your teen drivers to try it as well. Start your car’s engine (to engage the power steering). Ensure that the parking brake is set. Leave the car in park. Sit for a moment as you do when driving. Put your hand on the steering wheel at the top center. Then reach across the vehicle to pick up something from the passenger seat. Look where your hand is on the steering wheel. Has the steering wheel turned? Next, instead of reaching for something on the seat, reach for something on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Look at your hand on the wheel. In all likelihood, you will have turned the wheel.
Based on this experiment, we can imagine what would happen if we reached into the back seat for an item. We can probably imagine the result of the experiment when reaching for something on the floor at our feet.
Thousands of crashes have occurred because drivers believe they would not lose control of their vehicle when reaching for something.
There are two things we need to teach teen drivers. First, that nothing anywhere in the vehicle is as important as controlling the vehicle. Nor is anything so urgent that it is worth risking a crash at that moment. Second, there is a safe and responsible way to retrieve objects in the vehicle. That is to wait until you can safely pull off from the highway. Pull over to a safe place, put the car in park, and then retrieve the object.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a driver reaching for something, or by any other type of distracted driving, call Altizer Law, P.C., in Roanoke, VA. Bettina Altizer and her auto accident team have been helping people recover the financial compensation they are entitled to for more than 30 years. When you have been hurt, and you need to rebuild your life, we understand that it’s about the money.