What Exactly is Distracted Driving?

By now, you’ve no doubt heard a lot about distracted driving. Although much has been said about the topic, many misconceptions about distracted driving are still common. You may remember that last year on October 1st, a new distracted driving law took effect in Oregon. This new law created a strict ban on cellphone use while driving and higher fines which escalate for repeat offenders. An earlier version of the law, enacted in 2009, contained a glaring loophole which allowed drivers to use their cellphones while driving for any purpose other than calling or texting. In other words, you were in violation of the law if you were making a call, but not if you were using a navigation app or playing a game.

Many people mistakenly believe that distracted driving refers only to texting or talking on the phone while driving. Just as the hands-free law in Oregon required updating to address the realities of distracted driving, so too does our common understanding of what distracted driving is.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving refers to any activity which takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving a vehicle. The misconception that distracted driving refers to talking or texting on a cellphone while driving most likely arises from the fact that those activities have become among the most common ways that people drive distracted. It’s important to understand that they are by no means the only ways. Drivers are distracted when they are eating, changing the radio station, applying make-up, or even simply having a conversation with passengers in their vehicle.

Why is Distracted Driving Dangerous?

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, the activities which constitute distracted driving by definition take a driver’s attention away from driving. When the proper attention to the road is not paid by a driver, the results can be severe. Distracted driving can cause potentially fatal accidents with other cars, large trucks, and pedestrians. It’s been noted that talking on a cellphone can quadruple the risk of an accident, while texting creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without a distraction. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 291,000 were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers. Laws like the ones introduced in Oregon are meant to prevent these tragedies, but they can only go so far.

What Else Can Be Done About Distracted Driving?

In addition to the distracted driving laws that are being introduced in Oregon and around the country, it’s important that people be informed about what distracted driving actually is and which behaviors should be avoided. The group most likely to drive distracted is millennials. In fact, 88 percent of drivers between the ages of 19 and 25 engaged in risky behavior behind the wheel in the last 30 days, including texting while driving. For a generation which grew up with technology that’s ubiquitous, it’s especially important to be educated about the risks.

The NHTSA, or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, encourages parents to teach their children about the dangers of distracted driving. One of the best ways is to lead by example. Finally, technology companies are working to combat distracted driving by introducing software that disables a phone when it detects a person is driving. For example, Apple has introduced a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature which silences notifications when a person with an iPhone is driving. Hopefully, the combined efforts of parents, governments, and technology companies will be sufficient to educated people about and prevent accidents caused by distracted driving.

Contact Us

If you have been involved in an auto accident with someone who was driving distracted, you should not hesitate to contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield right away. We can answer any questions you may have during a free consultation and, if necessary, represent your case in court. With over 70 collective years of legal and trial experience, we’re well-suited to assist you with any needs or questions you may have.  

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