The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of auto accidents every year. Distracted driving, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Common types of distracted driving include everything from using a cell phone to text, call, or put on music to eating, drinking, smoking, talking, and a hundred other things you could potentially do while driving.

So, how dangerous is each of these types of distracted driving, and what’s being done to stop it? Keep reading to learn some of the most important distracted driving statistics and how governments are responding to the issue.

The Three Types of Distracted Driving

Experts have attempted to specify a few types of distracted driving. These include manual distractions, visual distractions, and cognitive distractions. We’ll break down each type below.

Manual distractions: These include any activity that takes your hands away from the steering wheel while you’re driving. Reaching for a soda, changing the radio station, or eating food all qualify as manual distractions.

Visual distractions: Visual distractions, on the other hand, include any activity that takes your eyes off the road. If you look at your phone, look at the radio, or turn your head to converse with a passenger, you’re visually distracted.

Cognitive distractions: The final type of distraction is called cognitive distraction. This occurs when your mind wanders away from the task of driving. If you’re thinking about something deeply or having an involved conversation, you’re cognitively distracted.

Each type of distraction described above is common for drivers. When lawmakers create distracted driving laws, they’re aiming to curtail the most dangerous manifestations.

Distracted Driving Statistics

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving took 3,142 lives in 2019. That number does not reflect the many more injuries and other types of damage resulting from accidents caused by distracted driving. Clearly, the problem is significant.

One of the most dangerous types of distracted driving is using a cell phone while driving. When you text and drive, you’re engaging in all three types of distraction at once. According to researcher David Strayer of the University of Utah, talking on a cell phone while driving quadruples the risk of an accident. This level of risk is similar to driving drunk.

When you text while driving, that risk doubles again, to eight times normal. In 2009, a study found that texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without a distraction. Since then, cell phones and smartphones have only gotten more ubiquitous.

What is being done about distracted driving?

Over a decade of distracted driving statistics, plus the ubiquity of smartphones and the proliferation of distracting apps, have fortunately led to initiatives to curtail distracted driving in the public sphere. Keep reading to learn about how laws and other projects are combatting the most dangerous types of distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Laws

Unfortunately, drivers aren’t taking the risks of distracted driving seriously enough. For many people, near-constant cell phone use has become a norm. According to a survey conducted by AAA and released in 2018, a significant majority (88 percent) of people claimed to recognize the danger from cell phone distractions while driving. Of those people, 49 percent admitted to having recently talked on a handheld device while driving, and 35 percent admitted to reading or sending a text message or email.

Because people acknowledge the risks while still engaging in risky behaviors, lawmakers have determined it to be in the public’s best interest to institute new rules regarding distracted driving.

The rules and regulations that prohibit and punish distracted driving are different throughout the country.  You can keep track of distracted driving laws by state through the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). As time goes on, hopefully a greater understanding of the dangers of distracted driving will contribute to safer roads for everyone.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

One encouraging development in distracted driving safety is the introduction of Distracted Driving Awareness Month into the public sphere. Every April, organizations like the National Safety Council provide educational materials to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving at work and in communities across the country.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, whether the at-fault person was engaged in distracted driving or not, you should contact one of the experienced auto accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield. With over 70 years of collective legal and trial experience, we can help answer any questions you may have on the phone or in person during a free consultation.

This article was updated for accuracy in February 2022.

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