You may seem completely focused on the road. But, anytime you reach to grab fast food out of the bag on your passenger seat, or when you switch songs, or adjust the volume on your audio system, you are taking a risk because one hand is leaving the steering wheel. What is distracted driving and how does it happen?
Distracted driving is a significant problem in the U.S., accounting for 8.7% of all traffic fatalities and a total of 3,142 deaths in 2019 (NHTSA). The highest risk age group for distracted driving is teens, who cause 58% of distracted driving accidents (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety). Also, drivers aged 15 to 19 are three times more likely to cause deaths from distracted driving than drivers aged 20 and older (IIHS).
Types of Distractions
Driving distractions occur when at least one of four sensory processing systems is interrupted. These types of distractions are:
- Visual – when you take your eyes off the road
- Auditory – when you are not listening to traffic or road conditions
- Cognitive – when you are not focusing your mind on driving
- Manual – when you take your hands off the wheel
Risky driving behaviors interfere with these very important sensory processes. FYI, texting causes three types of distractions!
Risky Driving Behaviors
You are likely aware that handheld devices can be very distracting on the road. But there are also other risky, disruptive tasks and activities. Here is a list of distracting behaviors linked to car accidents:
- Talking on the phone
- GPS use
- Eating and drinking
- Applying makeup
- Listening to loud music
- Turning to grab something from the back seat
Distracted Driving Laws
In response to rising fatalities due to distracted driving, 48 states now prohibit texting while driving. Twenty-four states have banned the use of all handheld devices and 20 states have banned all cell phone use. In 2021, three states have updated their distracted driving laws to have a clear requirement for hands-free driving: Arizona, Virginia and Idaho. In Idaho, you are not allowed to hold your cellphone even when stopped at a stop sign. Arizona and Virginia have added specific clauses to ban watching or recording videos and checking social media.
To protect yourself and to uphold your duty to follow safe driving practices, you should work on eliminating distractions while you drive. Find out what the laws are in your state regarding handheld devices or contact a car accident lawyer from a firm like Greenspan & Greenspan P.C. if you were involved in an accident linked to distracted driving.