Two million motorists have had an accident or near miss when driving with just one hand on the wheel. Texting or talking on a mobile device is often considered distracted driving, but there are many other habits that can increase a driver’s risk of an accident. Eating, drinking, adjusting the radio control, along with any action that takes one hand off the wheel, are forms of distracted driving and can be just as dangerous as using a mobile. A 2012 study reveals why keeping two hands on the wheel could reduce automobile accidents and save lives.
Esure car insurance commissioned a study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Leeds. Using a driving simulator, the researchers found that participants’ reaction times increased by 44 percent when eating behind the wheel and by over a fifth compared to driving with both hands firmly on the wheel. In their report, entitled “Two Hands Better Than One,” researchers state that these increases are most likely due to additional visual demands that eating and drinking require, such as unwrapping food or sipping from a cup.
But there are many other forms of distracted driving, such as touching the navigation system, smoking, or adjusting car control. All of these behaviors can lead to an increase in the risk of an automobile accident, and researchers found that 17 percent of motorists think it’s acceptable to drive with just one hand on the wheel. Forty-seven percent admit that they drive in this manner on a regular basis.
Distracted driving, however, isn’t just an issue in the UK. Twenty-two percent of Scots admit that they often take their hand off the wheel to smoke while driving—the highest of any region polled. In the United States, more than 15 people are killed and 1,200 people are injured in crashes every day that involves distracted driving. Six states still do not have laws against distracted driving, but they’re starting to take action. The city of Tampa held Florida’s first distracted driving summit and proposed a bill to address distracted driving. New laws could decrease the number of statewide and Tampa personal injury cases, serious medical complications, and lost lives due to automobile accidents.
Statistics prove that behaviors that require drivers to take one hand off the wheel may lead to increased accident risk. Professor Samantha Jamson at the University of Leeds notes that although it is widely accepted that the distraction of talking on a mobile device may increase accident risk, any activity that involves taking one hand off the wheel cam also cause distraction. Drivers should keep both hands on the wheel and focus on the task at hand: getting to their destination safely.
By Ashley Burns