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Distracted, aggressive driving blamed for 400,000 injuries annually in the US

Posted at 8:25 AM, May 06, 2023

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — “I definitely think there's more distracted drivers. I would say probably finding music, texting, using the maps, trying to avoid traffic... Looking down,” said Kayla Pumpkin, a driver who has seen an increase in distracted driving.

So how bad is the problem?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every year 400,000 people are injured in crashes related to distracted driving.

Then there's the hangover effect that has nothing to do with drinking. AAA Research found it's when our minds stay distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones or voice to text vehicle infotainment systems to send text messages, make calls or update social media.

“And a couple times people be on they phones and not paying attention and almost hit us,” said Margaret Storey, has concerns about distracted drivers.

“I think there's a lot of angry drivers out there. I don't know why but definitely seems to be a lot of frustrated drivers on the road,” said Jake Bailiff, who has witnessed frustrated drivers.

Add frustration or even anger to the mix and you've got people suddenly bent on road rage, revenge and catch me if you can.

“We have people making poor decisions about life in general. And a lot of it is I only care about me and I don't care about anybody else,” said 1st Lt. Michael Shaw with Michigan State Police.

“We live in a society where people are not being very mindful. They are either very future focused with their thinking, which is in an anxiety state, or they're very past focused, the argument they had last night, or if only this had happened, or only we could go back to a better time and none of that puts you in this present sense,” said Dr. Rose Moten, psychologist and founder of BLOOM Transformation Center in Detroit.

Dr. Moten says too often, even on the road, people personalize a situation when it's not actually about you.

“Our initial belief system is this person doesn't respect me. They're disregarding, you know, my personal agency. But let's say that person who had a child in the car who's having a medical emergency and they're trying to get to the closest ER. Of course we have no way of knowing if that's the truth, but sometimes just even challenging our belief systems will take us from that state of anger to one of understanding so we don't have to react,” said Dr. Moten.

“I tell my granddaughter a lot of times back up just let them have the way. Don't try to do nothing. Don't blow at them. Don't give them eye contact. Just keep your head straight,” Storey said.

And she's right. Don't engage an angry driver. And don't let frustration or distraction keep you from being a good one. Because Michigan State Police say there are very few accidents. There are mostly crashes that could have been avoided.

“We’ve got to start looking back at our own personal responsibility and that is when you get behind the wheel of a car, you're responsible for everything that happens inside that car to everybody around you,” said Lt. Shaw.

“I think people are just more reckless these days, more brazen behind the wheel. They just have less care for traffic and safety rules,” said Jakobe Clark, local driver.

“When you're in traffic and someone is driving erratically or they're cutting you off or they're weaving into traffic, it irritates all of us. Right. But we also have to consider, okay, let's let's reframe this. What could be going on with that person? That person could be having a mental health crisis,” Dr. Moten said.

And state police say we'd all be safer on the road if more drivers slowed down, stopped being distracted or following too close to the vehicle ahead.

“If we had people just avoid those big three things, probably our crash rate would probably drop by 80%,” said Lt. Shaw.