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The Path to Road Safety: Identifying the Main Causes of Distracted Driving and How to Prevent Them

 Good weather conditions and minimal traffic typically mean that your drive will go smoothly. However, cell phone use, listening to music, and watching the scenery can vie for your attention. And the result? You’ll increase your risk of car accidents due to distracted driving.

It is one of the most dangerous behaviors on the road and accounts for an average of 3,000 deaths from auto accidents each year in the U.S. 

But what is distracted driving? And most importantly, how can you prevent it?

In this article, let’s go through the different types of distractions while driving, what the government is doing to prevent them, and what you can do as a responsible motorist.

3 Types of Distractions While Driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are three types of distractions while driving: visual, cognitive, and manual. 

  1. Visual Distractions

Visual distractions while driving occur when you take your eyes off the road because you’re looking at your phone, your child in the car, food, or people on the streets.

  1. Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions while driving happen when you take your mind off the act of driving. This can include daydreaming, talking to passengers in the car, listening to music, or singing.

  1. Manual Distractions

Manual distractions while driving occur when you take your hands off the wheel. This can be due to holding your phone, texting, or eating food.

These are the different categories of distractions when driving. You must know about them to be aware of any behaviors that increase your risk of encountering an accident. In an actual accident, knowing these types can help you with police reports and when you're being held liable for injuries, property damage, or even death.

Not everyone has the exact definition, but when you must prove distracted driving caused your accident, you can use these categories to make it easier. 

Distracted Driving Statistics in the U.S.

Is using your phone while driving dangerous? If you've called or texted someone while driving and nothing happened, does that mean it's safe? No, it means you were lucky. Cell phone use while behind the wheel is as bad as driving while intoxicated, according to a study from the University of Utah.

Taking your focus and attention away from driving at any given time means you're more likely to cause an accident. And these numbers prove it:

  • According to a Virginia Technical Transportation Institute survey, commercial drivers who text increase their car accident risk 23 times.

  • Compared to undistracted drivers, cellphone users are 5.6 times more likely to get into an accident, according to a University of Utah study.

  • In 2020, there were 324,652 injuries due to car accidents caused by distracted driving. In the same year, there were reports of 3,142 deaths due to the same reason.

What Is the U.S. Government Doing to Minimize Distracted Driving?

The federal government and state authorities found these statistics alarming and took measures to minimize and prevent distracted driving. Some laws include banning cellphone use while driving, executing hands-free laws, and implementing programs to improve road safety.

Here are some other systems and programs in effect:

  • Implementing HVE (High Visibility Enforcement) has reduced driver cell phone use among motorists.

  • Placing rumble strips on highways has been effective in lowering auto accidents.

  • Including distracted driving awareness as part of driver's license exams in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

  • Supporting vehicle technology systems for distracted driving detection in the National Roadway Safety Strategy program.

Some laws even limit the number of young passengers in vehicles with teen drivers. These are all created to prevent instances of distracted driving.

While programs and laws are in place, the burden of responsibility always begins with the driver. If you've been using your phone to take work calls or call a loved one on the road, it's time to stop. 

The following section will give you a few tips on how to prevent distracted driving from occurring.


What Can You Do to Minimize Distracted Driving?

Here are some things you can do so you, your passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians remain safe when you're at the wheel:

  1. Avoid Multitasking

Studies show that the human brain can't multitask. So if you're hungry while driving and want to take a bite of a sandwich, you should wait till you get home to eat. Or, if you need to make an urgent phone call, stop on the side of the road to take that call.

  1. Clear Your Head

If you just finished a Zoom meeting and are at the wheel in two minutes, your mind still needs to be more apparent to be behind the wheel. You might be repeating conversations and things said in the meeting, which takes your mind off driving. 

Daydreaming is also a cognitive type of distracted driving that removes your attention from the road. Insurance Business America reveals that being lost in your thoughts accounts for 61% of deaths in car accidents.

  1. Manage Any Distractions You May Have in Your Vehicle

Controlling or managing these things before you go on the road is a good idea, such as if you have a screaming child, a phone constantly ringing, or a messy car. These situations can take your attention away from driving and put you and your passengers at risk for accidents.

Prevent Car Accidents: Learn About Distracted Driving for Road Safety

Accidents happen, but we can take the necessary steps to prevent it from occurring. We need to be mindful of common distractions while behind the wheel. These can interfere with our focus, which makes us more likely to find ourselves in unfavorable situations on the road.  

Using cell phones, listening to music, and handling personal concerns while driving must be avoided to prevent car accidents. Educating ourselves about distracted driving and practicing responsible driving habits contribute to road safety.

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