The Dangers of Distracted Driving

In Newsletter Content by Brandon St. Clair

Distracted driving is any activity diverting a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.

There are four types of driver distraction:

  1. Visual Distraction, or looking at something, other than the road.
  2. Auditory Distraction, which is hearing something not related to driving.
  3. Manual Distraction, manipulating something other than the steering wheel.
  4. Cognitive Distraction, thinking about something other than driving.

All distractions endanger the driver, passengers, and others on the road.  Distractions come from four general sources:

  1. Controls, displays, and navigations systems associated with the vehicle.
  2. Cell phones, computer, food, animals, and grooming aids brought into the vehicle.
  3. Signs and displays, scenery, and roadside features external to the vehicle.
  4. Daydreaming or being lost in thought, internal to the driver’s mind.

The most alarming and severe of these distractions is TEXTING because doing so impacts three of the four types of distraction – visual, manual, and cognitive.  These are the same three of the four types of distractions that happen in drunk driving.  When someone drives while intoxicated, their visual, manual, and cognitive skills are depleted.

The number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers due to texting is likely to eclipse the drunk driving toll due to the prevalence of smartphones.

Studies show that the average driver takes his eyes off the road for five seconds at a time while texting.  At 70 miles per hour, that is like driving the length of almost two football fields with your eyes closed. 

In California, you cannot use a cell phone or similar electronic communication device while holding it in your hand.  You can only use in a hands-free manner, such as a speaker phone or voice commands, but never while holding it.  Any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a cell phone for any reason.

Drivers who violate this law must pay a fine.  After July 1, 2021, drivers will also receive a point on their driving record for at least 36 months.  This can be costly on your insurance, not to mention the financial and emotional toll it would have if you injured or killed someone while driving distracted.

Some ideas on how to avoid cell phone distraction:

  1. Put your phone away in the back of your vehicle or in your trunk.
  2. Silence your phone.
  3. Pull over and park in a safe location if a call or text is necessary.
  4. Have passengers manage your phone for you.
  5. Prepare before you drive. Review maps, adjust your radio, eat, and make any phone calls before you get on the road.
  6. Request phone-free driving when you are the passenger of a vehicle.
  7. There are also many free apps available to prevent your cellphone from becoming a distraction while driving.

Above all, make sure to always be responsible for the lives in your car and the lives of those sharing the road with you.