Eating Behind the Wheel? That’s Distracted Driving Too

February 06, 2015

While the city’s new hands-free ordinance will save lives, drivers should resist other distractions to avoid crashes and injuries

(SAN ANTONIO, TX – Feb. 6, 2015) San Antonio’s new hands-free ordinance is in full effect beginning this month after a 30-day grace period. An expert at University Health System’s Level I Trauma center believes the law will save lives if followed, but cautions that many other kinds of common distracted-driving behaviors also raise the risk of crashes.

Dr. Lillian Liao, pediatric trauma and burn director at University Hospital, says that distracted driving is a growing problem that results in nine deaths and more than a thousand injuries each day across the country.

“To put it plainly, distracted driving increases the chances you will be in a motor vehicle crash,” says Dr. Liao, assistant professor of surgery at the UT Health Science Center. She wrote about the problem in a recent essay in Health Focus SA.

There are three kinds of distracted driving, and all of them can lead to crashes:

  • Visual — Taking your eyes off the road. This includes looking at your cell phone or in-car navigation device.
  • Manual — Taking your hands off the wheel. This includes eating with one hand while driving or applying makeup.
  • Cognitive — Taking your mind off the wheel. Talking or daydreaming falls in this category.

Texting while driving, which involves all three categories of distraction, is the most dangerous of all. While the city has banned texting and driving for some time now, most of us have seen drivers engaging in this reckless behavior behind the wheel. The new ordinance continues and adds other hand-held cell phone uses to that ban.

“Distracted driving is a very dangerous behavior that increases the risk of car crashes and motor vehicle-related deaths,” Dr. Liao says. “We all have very busy lives, but for your own safety and the safety of your family, friends and neighbors, set aside all those distractions while you’re behind the wheel and focus on the road. And urge your kids to do the same.”

University Health System’s trauma team supports the Drive Now, Text L8R campaign. Those who sign up and take the pledge not to text and drive will receive a cell phone sleeve at no cost to remind then not to use their phones while driving.