The Most Common Examples & Causes of Distracted Driving

According to a 2015 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.”

One out of every five car crashes causing an injury involved some element of distracted driving, and 16% of all fatal automobile accidents also involved distracted driving.

Statistics show that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can double your risk of a crash. Unfortunately, most drivers engaging in distracted behaviors are losing sight of the road long enough to quadruple their risk of an accident. For example, a report commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (PDF link) found that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of blindly driving an entire football field at 55 miles per hour.

Despite the well-documented dangers of distracted driving, it continues to pose a serious problem. However, as a recent article from Our Kids points out, it’s not just cell phones that are causing problems on our roadways. Here are some of the causes of distracted driving:

1) Cell Phones

It’s no surprise that cell phones are the leading cause of distracted driving. A study conducted by the University of Utah (PDF link) found that using a cell phone while driving (even if it’s hands-free) creates the same delayed reactions as a person with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent (the legal limit).

People commonly assume the risk is just with texting while driving. According to a new study, Texting while driving has the highest crash risk. But don’t be fooled thinking that only texting is dangerous. However, being distracted by phone calls is also very dangerous.

In many states (including California) it’s illegal to use your handheld phone while driving. When you’re driving, do the right thing and put your phone away.

2) Car Stereos

Although adjusting the radio is a common task while driving, having preset stations and exercising common sense can help eliminate this distraction. As Csaba Csere, editor of Car and Driver magazine explains, “…the most important safety factor is a competent driver paying attention to the task behind the wheel…Don’t tune the radio when you’re negotiating traffic in a complicated intersection.”

3) Talking With Passengers

Whether it’s turning around to talk to your kids or looking at the person sitting in your passenger seat, the NHTSA estimates that talking to passengers was the leading distraction in 7,000 crashes last year. Although the department’s research stated that passengers typically pose only a “cognitive” distraction, it’s still one of the most common causes of distracted driving.

4) GPS Devices

Even with the helpful intention of navigating drivers to their destination, GPS devices can present a major distraction. Some studies suggest that any sort of distraction is just as dangerous as using your cell phone, and because GPS devices require the same type of visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver as sending a text message, they’re potentially just as dangerous.

5) Eating or Drinking

A UK insurance provider commissioned a study confirming that when it comes to reducing a driver’s reactions, snacking while driving is on par with using a cell phone. The report determined that, “the mental workload required to eat, drink and drive at the same time was significantly raised, indicating that drivers who consume en route have a greatly reduced ability to deal with other events.”

Despite being the most frequent, these five causes aren’t the only instances of distracted driving. Other common examples include smoking, grooming, dropping something, or even reading a newspaper or book. Regardless of the activity, keeping attention focused on the task at hand and eliminating unnecessary distractions can have a major impact on a driver’s overall safety.

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6)Reading While Driving

While this may come as a shock to a lot of drivers you may sometimes notice people reading while driving. Whether it’s a map, a book, or a text message, taking your eyes off the road to focus on reading is a bad and dangerous choice.

7) Personal Grooming

HAve you ever seen someone trying to apply lipstick, comb their hair, or apply eye shadow while driving? It may be more common than you assume. According to a recent study, Women are more likely than men to be distracted by grooming themselves while driving. Even if you’re in a hurry this practice can wait until your car is safely parked.

Any Distraction While Driving is Distracted Driving

This is should not be considered an exhaustive list. The truth is that anything that takes your attentino off the road is a distraction to your driving. When you’re on the road make sure to pay attention and drive safe.