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The 10 Deadliest Driver Distractions [+How to Avoid Them]

Distracted driving is no longer just about cellphones — and the research proves it.

A new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that those who consistently rely on driver-assisted technology, like adaptive cruise control, are nearly twice as likely to drive distracted. The reason behind this trend? Drivers becoming more complacent, letting their guard down.

These findings are just another piece in an alarming body of research proving that there are many dangers for distracted driving, and that motorists must be more vigilant than ever in safeguarding themselves and others.

And remember, all it takes is one moment of distraction to go from running a simple errand, to being involved in a deadly collision.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson thousands have learned the hard way, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,166 people were killed in tragic distracted-driving accidents in 2017. Keep your family safe and your monthly car insurance rates low by learning more about the deadliest driver distractions and taking action to prevent them.

A basic requirement of being a safe and responsible driver is investing in car insurance. Our free tool makes it easy to compare affordable rates in your area, get started today!

The 10 Deadliest Distractions for Drivers

It’s simple. Any activity that takes your attention away from driving — whether that’s texting, eating, or using your GPS — is considered a distraction. And for every two seconds that a driver’s attention is taken from the road, their risk of crash increases.

“This distraction occurs instantly. There is no applicable grace period,” explains Steve Rastin, a lawyer with Rastin & Associates. “A brief distraction may still have significant consequences, especially if a vehicle is traveling at highway speeds.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), driving distractions tend to fall in one of three categories:

Distracted Driving - Visual, Manual, or Cognitive

  • Visual distractions, or those that take your eyes off of the road.
  • Manual distractions, or those that cause you to take your hands off of the wheel.
  • Cognitive distractions, or those that take your mind off of driving.

Bottom line? You can’t expect to drive safely unless you’re giving it your full attention. And with that, we’re digging into the 10 deadliest distractions for drivers — what they are, and how you can avoid them.

#1 – Texting and Cellphone Use

Cellphones have become synonymous with distracted driving, and with good reason. After all, when you consider that cellphone use combines visual, manual, and cognitive distractions, the potential for injury or death becomes staggering.

Many drivers will rationalize looking at a text or email and think, “It’s only a few seconds.” However, studies show that taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Dangers

Even with a growing number of states prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones while driving, drivers are still taking risks. A recent NHTSA study reveals that:

  • The percentage of drivers talking on handheld phones grew from 2.9 percent in 2017 to 3.2 percent in 2018.
  • The percentage of drivers “visibly manipulating” handheld devices also grew, from 2 percent in 2017 to 2.1 percent in 2017.

Before you assume that these increases are small, remember this: They’re not too small to those who have been personally impacted by death or injury. No one is invincible. Tragic distracted driving accidents happen every day — everywhere in the United States.

This well-done PSA attempts to drive that message home to viewers. Take a look.

Research also shows that the proportion of cellphone-distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 was highest among teenagers:

Distracted Drivers by Age and Cell Phone Use
Drivers Involved in
Fatal Crashes by Age
Total Number of
Distracted Drivers
Distracted Drivers
Using Cell Phones
% of Distracted Drivers
15–192716323%
20–2981615119%
30–395578615%
40–494314811%
50–59360339%
60–69224198%
70+29241%
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Here, we can see that 23 percent of all 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes were on their cellphones. The next-highest proportion of drivers were between the ages of 20 and 29 (at 19 percent), followed by those between 30 and 39 (15 percent).

According to Prosper Shaked, personal injury attorney and owner The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked, these statistics are a reflection of our youngest generation’s dependence on cellphones.

“Individuals under the age of 30 are much more reliant on their cellphones for uses other than voice communication,” says Shaked. “This age group uses their phones in ways that require more time on screen.”

There’s no better way to say it. Protecting yourself, and others, begins with making the choice not to use your cellphone while driving. Some practical ways to remain safe include:

  • Putting your phone out of reach while you’re driving
  • Using an app to block incoming text messages and phone calls
  • Turning your cellphone off before driving
  • If you have to use your phone for navigation, putting in all directions before you drive and making sure your phone is mounted to the dashboard
  • If you’re riding with others, selecting a passenger to be your “designated texter”

Finally, if you absolutely must respond to a text or phone call, wait until you can safely pull over to do so.

#2 – In-Vehicle Technology

They’re the gadgets and gizmos meant to make our lives easier. Yet some caution that for many, in-vehicle technology has the potential to do much more harm than good.

In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety argues that features labeled as “hands-free” or “voice-controlled” can actually create a false sense of security for drivers.

In proving their point, researchers examined the built-in technology systems of 40 new vehicles. Whether it was in using a navigation system, making a phone call, or programming entertainment, researchers found that more than half of the systems required high or very high levels of demand to operate.

In a separate study, the foundation took a closer look at how these in-vehicle systems impacted drivers by age. Researchers discovered that when drivers used this technology to perform simple tasks like tuning the radio, older drivers took their eyes and attention off the road eight seconds longer than their younger counterparts.

Here’s a breakdown of completion times by age and task:

In-Vehicle Technology Completion Time
Drivers and
In-Vehicle Technology
Audio EntertainmentCalling and DialingText MessagingNavigation Entry
Ages 21-3618.0 sec17.7 sec27.7 sec31.4 sec
Ages 55-7525.4 sec22.4 sec33.8 sec40.0 sec
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In short, older drivers took as much as 40 seconds to complete tasks tied to navigation entry (versus 31.4 seconds for younger drivers). On the flip side, it took older drivers 22.4 seconds to dial and make calls, compared to 17.7 seconds for younger drivers.

So what accounts for such high levels of distraction? Experts say it boils down to multiple menus, and cumbersome voice commands. As a result, AAA suggests:

  • Avoiding using in-vehicle technology while driving, except during emergencies
  • Putting addresses in your navigation system before leaving
  • Practicing using voice-command and touch-screen functions when you’re not driving
  • Avoiding cars that use a center-console controller for its system, as they can be very distracting for drivers

AAA partnered with a mental distraction expert to research this very issue. AAA called it Cognitive Distracted Phase II.

#3 – Adjusting Volume, Radios, and Other Controls

Maybe you’re not relying on high-tech systems to get by while you’re driving. But even simple tasks like adjusting the volume or the air conditioner can still prove to be distracting.

In reviewing nearly 7,000 crashes, NHTSA researchers discovered that 11 percent were impacted by distractions coming from inside of the vehicle. Among them? Drivers adjusting radios, CDs, and other controls.

Remember, these tasks aren’t just manual distractions. As long adjusting your car’s controls require your sight and your concentration, they can also become visual and cognitive distractions.

Moral of the story? Keep the adjustments to a minimum, only making them before you drive or when fully stopped. This includes drinking from your bottle of water.

#4 – Drowsy Driving

91,000 car crashes, 50,000 injuries, and 795 deaths. That’s the overall impact drowsy drivers had in 2017, according to the NHTSA. And if you think that’s shocking, consider this:

Drivers who feel fatigued are three times more likely to get into a crash.

In fact, it’s estimated that drivers who go for nearly a day without sleep are just as dangerous as those driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08, the legal level of intoxication.

Drowsy Driving - Just as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

The NHTSA reports that most drowsy-driving crashes:

  • Take place between midnight and 6 a.m., or late in the afternoon
  • Usually involve a single driver with no passengers
  • Are caused by running off the road at high rates of speed
  • Often take place on rural roads and highways

Perhaps what makes drowsy driving even more dangerous is that some drivers may not be able to identify the signs of fatigue. According to the National Safety Council, some will experience something called “micro-sleep,” which is unknowingly nodding off or closing their eyes for four to five seconds.

WSLS 10 News covered the dangers of drowsy driving in a news report that looked at researched data from a Virginia university.

To combat drowsy driving, the most important thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep. However, if you do find yourself driving fatigued, the NHTSA recommends safely pulling over, drinking coffee, and taking a short nap (in a safe area).

But beware:

While having coffee in your system can increase alertness, experts say it’s only a short-term solution.

Other remedies to keep in mind:

  • Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving.
  • Make sure that any prescription or over-the-counter medicines that you are taking don’t lead to drowsiness. If they do, seek alternative forms of transportation.
  • Many teens are known for not getting enough sleep and can be especially vulnerable to driving drowsy. Encourage them to delay driving until they’ve gotten plenty of rest.

Finally, try to avoid driving during the peak sleepiness period of midnight to 6 a.m., and late in the afternoon. If you must drive at these times, ensure that you remain as alert as possible, looking out for any signs of fatigue.

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#5 – Pets and Animals

Faithful sidekicks, constant companions, man’s best friend. In spite of all of the positive benefits associated with having a pet, experts warn that if you’re not careful, driving with one can prove to be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to make sure your car insurance plan includes pet insurance.

Take the eye-opening results of a survey sponsored by AAA and Kurgo Pet Products. Sixty-five percent of the respondents admitted to participating in distracting behaviors with their pets while driving, including:

  • Petting their dogs (52 percent)
  • Allowing their dog to sit in their laps (17 percent)
  • Giving their dogs food or treats (13 percent)
  • Playing with their dogs (4 percent)

But it doesn’t stop there.

Even though 84 percent of drivers admitted to driving with their pets, only 16 percent said they used a pet restraint system.

Here’s what else you need to know — some communities have gone as far as making riding with your dog in your lap illegal. For instance, in the town of Mantua, Ohio, drivers who have an animal in their lap while driving can be ticketed as a primary offense. The fine associated with the offense? A whopping $150.

In the state of Hawaii, it’s a similar story. Drivers can be fined $97 for driving with a dog in their lap, or $57 if the pet is loose while in a moving car.

And while it didn’t get signed into law, one Florida lawmaker recently proposed legislation that would make petting your dog while driving illegal.

The big question is this: What’s a driver to do if they must get behind the wheel with a pet in tow? AAA urges using a restraint system. This will not only limit distractions but also protect pets from being thrown or injured in a crash. Among AAA’s other recommendations:

  • Restrain pets in the backseat, as the force of an airbag can be fatal to an animal.
  • Consider using padded harnesses with strong straps that can connect to a car’s seat belt or LATCH system.
  • Use hard or soft-sided crates that can be strapped down.
  • Use a pet car seat or basket-style holder for smaller dogs.

As for some of the biggest don’ts for driving with pets? Hooking a dog’s leash to the car, allowing your pet to roam in the bed of a truck, or keeping your pet in the front seat.

#6 – Other Passengers

Simply having another passenger in the car can lead to a number of distractions taking your eyes — or your mind — off the road. Just ask the busy parent driving with two small children in the back seat. Or, the couple engaged in a heated argument.

The fact of the matter is this: The way you interact with others while behind the wheel can make the difference between a smooth ride or bumpy travels.

In a 2014 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), researchers took a close look at how much time drivers were spending on activities other than driving. Turns out, the top spot didn’t go to talking on the cellphone. Rather, it was interacting with other passengers:

Types of Driver Distractions
DistractionPercent of Driving time
Interacting with
another passenger
12%
Talking on a cell phone7%
Holding an object6%
Talking/Singing/Dancing5%
Smoking4%
Adjusting Radio
or Temperature Congrols
3%
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Experts go on to say that there is one group of drivers especially vulnerable to riding with passengers — teenagers. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that:

  • A 16- or 17-year-old’s risk of death increases by 44 percent when carrying another passenger under the age of 21.
  • The risk of death doubles when carrying two passengers under 21.
  • The risk of quadruples when carrying three or more passengers under 21.

Indeed, these startling stats affirm why so many states have Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs in place restricting the number of passengers teens can have in their vehicles as they learn to drive.

Some ways drivers curb distractions tied to passengers include:

  • Limiting your conversation, especially in situations that demand more of your attention
  • Providing children with books or games to help keep them occupied while driving
  • If you find that one of your passengers needs your attention, don’t handle it while driving. Rather, pull over to a safe place.

#7 – Smoking Cigarettes

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And without a doubt, smoking while driving can open the door to distractions that can burn motorists in the long run. According to the Dolman Law Group, smoking can lead to:

  • Visual distractions, such as searching for a cigarette or lighter
  • Cognitive distractions, such as trying to light a cigarette while driving
  • Manual distractions, such as trying to steer while smoking

Just how distracting is cigarette smoking to drivers? A group of researchers used video analysis to measure distracted driving time among those who were smoking. They found that, on average, drivers who were smoking had their eyes off the road for 12 seconds — enough to cover a distance of roughly 100 miles at 30 miles per hour.

But there’s more.

According to Science Direct, studies have shown that smokers are 1.5 times more likely to be in crashes when compared with nonsmokers.

With stats like that, the choice for motorists should be simple. Eliminate all possible distractions by choosing not to smoke while driving.

#8 – Eating and Drinking

Unfortunately, it really can be as simple as one sip of coffee, or one bite of a bagel. Harmless as it may seem, eating and drinking while driving has the potential to be extremely dangerous. Just ask Lin McCraw, Personal Injury Lawyer of the McCraw Law Group.

“Food and drink are often not thought of as potential distractions, but they can be,” says McCraw. “Anything that causes your attention to be diverted from the road and anything that can fall or otherwise cause a driver to fumble looking for the item is a wreck waiting to happen.”

Not totally convinced? Consider these stats:

A 2014 study revealed that drivers eating and drinking behind the wheel were 3.6 times more likely to crash than their counterparts.

Here’s another eye-opening fact: An ExxonMobil study surveying 1,000 drivers revealed that 83 percent admitted to drinking beverages while driving, and 70 percent admitted to snacking or having entire meals.

For motorists in some states, eating and drinking while driving can lead to tickets and fines. As of July 2017, eating while driving is a secondary offense in the state of Washington. In other words, police won’t pull you over simply for eating while driving. However, they can pull you over if eating causes you to swerve or engage in other dangerous behavior.

Drivers who are cited under this law face $99 in fines — a price point officials hope will prove to be a powerful deterrent of dangerous behavior.

#9 – “Rubbernecking” or Looking at Car Accidents

The year was 2015.

Marilyn McKnight was driving with her son and daughter-in-law when suddenly, she was struck by another vehicle. The impact was so severe, McKnight and her son both had to be extracted from the car. In the end, McKnight’s injuries left her paralyzed.

Perhaps what’s most shocking about McKnight’s devastating crash was the reason behind this collision. Investigators say the driver who hit her was distracted from looking at another accident on the opposite side of the road.

It’s an act many refer to as “rubbernecking,” or slowing down to get a closer look at car accidents. And while most drivers are guilty of some form of curiosity, rubbernecking is a legitimate and harmful distraction.

So much so that some researchers estimate that rubbernecking is a factor in as many as 16 percent of all car crashes.

In recognizing these dangers, some law enforcement agencies have even invested in large, portable screens to serve as visual barriers in times of car crashes and collisions. But at the end of the day, prevention is simple — don’t do it. Tempting as it may be to discover the “why” behind a car accident, experts warn that stopping to stare just isn’t worth it. It’s also important to know what to do after a car accident.

In a video about the dangers of distracted driving, Heavy Rescue: 401 covers this very issue—turning to watch an accident and not paying attention to the road. This behavior could lead to your own accident, at that very scene.

 #10 – Daydreaming Behind the Wheel

Up to 70 percent. It’s the amount of time experts say that drivers are spending daydreaming behind the wheel.

But here’s where it gets even more surprising:

In studying five years’ worth of fatal crashes involving distracted drivers, researchers with Erie Insurance discovered that the number one distraction was being “lost in thought” or “generally distracted.”

In fact, a staggering 61 percent of these drivers admitted to daydreaming when the accident took place, which begs the question if you can even get car insurance following an accident. This figure far surpassed the next distracted-driving behavior on the list—the use of cellphones at 14 percent.

Indeed, experts view daydreaming while driving as an invisible distraction because so many do it without realizing it. What’s worse is that drivers who are lost in thought can miss important traffic signs or forget where they’re going.

The key to overcoming daydreaming while driving? Treating your mind as if it’s a muscle that needs to be exercised. If you find yourself losing focus on concentration, experts advise looking for ways to keep your mind engaged and refocusing on your surroundings.

Distracted Driving by the Numbers (Age & Location)

Here’s the deal: 9 percent of all fatal crashes in 2017 were the result of distracted driving. What’s more? Statistics prove that anyone can become a victim.

Here’s a breakdown of the latest data from the NHTSA:

People Killed in Distraction-Affected Crashes
Person TypeFatalities in
Distraction-Affected Crashes
Driver1,832
Passenger735
Pedestrian497
Pedalcyclist70
Other32
Total3,166
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Of the 3,166 who died in distracted-driving crashes in 2017, more than half (1,832) were drivers. The group with the next-highest number of fatalities was passengers at 735, followed by pedestrians at 497.

Now, let’s talk age. The NHTSA reveals that in 2017, the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in deadly crashes were those in their teens:

Fatal Distracted Driving Stats by Age
Drivers Involved in
Fatal Crashes by Age
Total Number
of Drivers
Distracted Drivers% of Total
in Age Group
15–193,2552718%
20–2912,0868167%
30–399,2905576%
40–497,9444315%
50–598,0293604%
60–695,5622244%
70+4,9112926%
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The age group with the highest percentage of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (8 percent) are 15- to 19-year-olds. Closely following this group are 20- to 29-year-olds at 7 percent, and 30- to 39-year-olds at 6 percent.

Finally, here’s what we know at the state level. 2017 data reveals the states with the highest and lowest percentage of fatal crashes with distracted driving as a factor:

Distracted Driving Fatalities by State
StateTotal Fatal Crashes
Involving Distracted Driving
Percent of Fatal Crashes
Alabama534.2%
Alaska32.9%
Arizona463.3%
Arkansas91.3%
California1412.8%
Colorado677.1%
Connecticut123.2%
Delaware52.9%
District of Columbia12.6%
Florida2084.5%
Georgia763.3%
Hawaii2819.4%
Idaho92.8%
Illinois704.5%
Indiana413.1%
Iowa255.6%
Kansas9214.8%
Kentucky13812.7%
Louisiana13913.4%
Maine156%
Maryland455.8%
Massachusetts286%
Michigan624.2%
Minnesota224.1%
Mississippi101.1%
Missouri725.5%
Montana93.9%
Nebraska206.3%
Nevada132.9%
New Hampshire85.6%
New Jersey15117.5%
New Mexico11621.7%
New York14610.7%
North Carolina944.7%
North Dakota64.1%
Ohio804.8%
Oklahoma555.9%
Oregon111.9%
Pennsylvania583.4%
Rhode Island32.9%
South Carolina664.9%
South Dakota74.4%
Tennessee402.8%
Texas3366.5%
Utah184.6%
Vermont77.5%
Virginia917.8%
Washington13716.8%
West Virginia4210.6%
Wisconsin536.3%
Wyoming106.9%
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The five states with the highest percentage of fatal crashes with distracted driving as a factor were:

  1. New Mexico, 21.7 percent
  2. Hawaii, 19.4 percent
  3. New Jersey, 17.5 percent
  4. Washington, 16.8 percent
  5. Kansas, 14.8 percent

As for the bottom five states? They were:

  1. North Dakota, 4.1 percent
  2. Delaware, 2.9 percent
  3. Alaska, 2.9 percent
  4. Rhode Island, 2.9 percent
  5. District of Columbia, 2.6 percent

Examples of Distracted Driving Laws

When it comes to laws regulating distracted driving, there’s no question about it: States are stepping up. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association:

  • Twenty-one states (as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) ban all drivers from using cellphones while behind the wheel.
  • Forty-eight states (including Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and USVI) prohibit texting and driving for all drivers
  • Thirty-nine states and Washington, D.C. ban all cellphone use by novice drivers
  • Twenty states and Washington, D.C. ban cellphone use for school bus drivers

In most cases, drivers who violate these laws can expect to receive tickets and fines. But the big question is — are these efforts really working? We found the response among experts to be a mixed bag.

“It’s getting better, but we have a long way to go,” says Arizona Attorney Marc Lamber. “I would say the most important thing we can do to get the message across is talk to our kids — the next generation of drivers — and constantly educate them against distracted driving habits.” 

But not everyone is convinced. For Shaked, his concern is that drivers truly don’t understand the dangers behind driving distracted.

“Distracted driving is as dangerous drunk driving. (Yet) distracted driving yields a civil citation in most states whereas a DUI lands you in jail,” he says. “Honestly, cellphone use is completely underrated at this point in time. I strongly believe that within the next 20-30 years distracted driving will be considered as deadly as drunk driving is today.”

And yet for some, their concerns are with the exceptions to the law. For instance, what about those drivers who are permitted to use their cellphones for navigational purposes? According to criminal defense attorney Benson Varghese of Varghese Summersett, this can lead to some gray areas.

“While the law has good intentions, it has proved to be difficult to enforce,” explains the attorney. “This is because the exceptions make it difficult for an officer to tell whether a driver is actually texting or using the phone for an approved purpose, such as using a traffic app, like Waze, or a music app.”

What experts do agree on, is the importance of continued education and awareness. “That, along with laws and constant public education campaigns will lead to the cultural shift,” says Lamber.

Ask The Experts: How to Avoid Distracted Driving

From establishing an electronics bag to shoring up on your defensive driving skills, we asked our panel of experts for their final words of advice on how to avoid distracted driving.in house 360 graphics around the world experts

Changing Behaviors Is Key to Stopping Distracted Driving

“Awareness is key. For years, the consequences of drinking and driving were ingrained in our consciousness and now, the dangers of distracted driving need to be taken just as seriously. And fighting the abuses of technology with cool technology may be the key. Perhaps as a group, you all agree to download the free app that silences all incoming texts and sends auto-reply messages to those texting you letting them know that you’re currently behind the wheel.

Many teens already say ‘I need to have my seat belt on if I’m going to ride with you – my folks are really strict.’ Now, perhaps the phrase expands to, ‘If you text and drive, I can’t ride with you.’

On the strict side, there are indeed subscription-based services that feature a device that goes under the dashboard of your car with an accompanying app that prevents your kids from sending or receiving texts while they’re on the road.

There are also many low-tech ways to solve this problem, including having your kids take a pledge to never text and drive.

Set an example for those around you, especially children and teenagers, and model safe driving behavior by keeping your attention on the road and away from blinking and ringing devices. Pull over when you need to make a call or send a message.

Educate family members that distracted driving is extremely dangerous, just like drunk driving or driving without a seat belt. Avoid calling or texting friends, colleagues and family who you know are driving.

I’ve also heard of families ‘putting all electronics in a bag,’ and placing the bag in the trunk until the car stops. In this way, the driver – and the passengers – are all committed to making sure that distracted driving is greatly minimized.

Again, raising awareness – and changing behaviors – is key. You need to commit to the idea that texting and driving isn’t cool – and you won’t tolerate this action from your friends either. At a grassroots level, ask your employer to discourage working while driving, such as taking phone calls or responding to emails or text messages. And on a political level, encourage legislation to mandate safe driving.”

Marc Lamber - Expert in Distracted Driving Study

Marc Lamber is an attorney at Fennemore Craig, forming the firm’s plaintiff personal injury practice.
Lamber spearheads the Stop Distracted Drivers campaign, and is a driving and car safety expert.


Overcoming Temptation Means Avoiding the Cellphone Altogether

“It seems obvious, but the best way to avoid distracted driving is to keep your phone out of reach and eyesight. Keep it in the glove compartment or put it in a bag in the backseat. Also, turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ app. If you absolutely need to check your phone or make a call, pull over — but not on the side of the road, which is dangerous and could potentially be illegal.

Drive to a safe place and park. These are simple tips, but they can save lives.

People tend to think that if they are driving hands-free that they are not driving distracted. That is a huge misconception. How many times has a person you are talking to sent you a social media post or a link to an article or a website while you are driving? How many times have they texted you someone’s phone number or address during a conversation?

Anytime this happens, the driver is tempted to take their eyes off their road to read or see what the caller has forwarded. Driving hands-free is safer than using a handheld device, but it’s still distracted driving. The only way to overcome the temptation is to avoid it altogether, which means refraining from talking on the phone while driving. Easier said than done.”

Benson Varghese - Distracted Driving Study Expert Advice

Benson Varghese is a criminal defense attorney at the Varghese Summersett law firm.
Varghese has written hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the federal level.


Educating Yourself Means You Realize You’re Not Invincible

“The first piece of advice I would give is that ruining your life or someone else’s life over a text, a phone call, or something else is just not worth it. Secondly, stop viewing it as ‘something that won’t happen to you’ because you’re careful. I’m sure everyone who has died and or killed someone in a distracted driving incident didn’t think it would happen to them either.

Thirdly, put the phone away when you’re driving. In my opinion, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ works best in this case. When you receive a text it’s easy to get tempted and want to read it. But, if you don’t know that you got it, then you don’t get that urge.

The biggest misconception people have about distracted driving is that they aren’t really distracted. People believe that they are paying attention when they are on the phone or texting and driving. But, in reality, their reaction times are slower and thus it results in accidents much more frequently.

I think this is the case because people are overly confident in their abilities. In order to overcome this, you need to educate yourself and read about texting and driving incidents. Once you get educated you’ll realize you’re not so invincible.”

Sean Pour - Distracted Driving Study Expert Advice

Sean Pour is the co-founder of SellMax, which is a nationwide car buying service.
A significant number of vehicles they purchase have been crashed as a result of distracted driving.


Assume All Other Drivers Are Distracted and Drive Accordingly

“Number one, don’t become a distracted driver yourself! Assume all other drivers are distracted. Do not drive next to other vehicles traveling in the same direction as you on multi-lane roads. If they come into your lane they won’t hit your car.

Keep your following distance to four seconds or more. If you’re being tailgated, change lanes, pull over to the side of the road and let them pass.

If you cannot do those, then increase your following distance so you can gradually slow until you can do one of the above.

I believe the message is getting across because of all the PSAs and new and updated laws. The problem is people still continue to distract themselves by rationalizing their behavior. For example, ‘I’ll just text or read them at red lights.’ This is still against the law, dangerous, and a congestion potential. It’s all too common — the light turns green, but the driver doesn’t notice because they’re looking at their phone.”

Jeff Westover - Expert for Distracted Driving Study

Jeff Westover is the owner of four 911 Driving School locations in Washington.
The national driving school consists of instructors who are former police officers or first responders. 


Young Drivers and Older Drivers Are Most Susceptible to Causing Wrecks

“Many people are so afraid of missing out, not being the first to know, to like a photograph or whatever that they throw away good sense. Our brains actually release an endorphin when we engage with another. It is the brain’s reward for making us humans matter to another human. 

That feeling can create a compulsion to risk distraction to get the reward of being needed on a call or answering a text immediately. Do not disturb apps can help defeat the temptation to engage in some distracting behaviors while driving.

Anything that causes your attention to be diverted from the road . . . such as something falling causing you to fumble looking for it . . . is a car crash waiting to happen. Statistically speaking all are vulnerable…but the very young drivers and the older drivers are the most susceptible to distractions causing wrecks.”

Lin McCraw - Expert in Distracted Driving Study

Lin McCraw is a personal injury lawyer at the McCraw Law Group.
McCraw has been practicing law for 20 years and is known for his work with victims of accidents.


In 30 Years, Distracted Driving Will Be Considered as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

“The law in Florida (where I practice) was recently changed to make cellphone use a primary driving offense. This is the trend in most states as they combat the growing number of accidents caused by drivers using cellphones. Legislation making the use of a cellphone while driving a primary offense is a very effective way to manage the danger of distracted driving.”

What do you consider the top three deadliest distractions for drivers?

  1. Cellphone use
  2. Touch screen controls: the more complex the device, the more features, the more opportunity for prolonged distraction
  3. Passengers in the vehicle

What are some forms of distractions that most drivers may consider harmless, but are actually dangerous? 

“Honestly, cellphone use is completely underrated at this point in time in terms of danger. I strongly believe that within the next 20-30 years, distracted driving will be considered as deadly as drunk driving is today.”

Why are drivers so drawn to texting and using their cellphones while driving? 

“Traveling by vehicle is dead time. People make the most of it by using their phones (for communication, social media, work) while driving.” 

Are there certain age groups or driver types who are more vulnerable to distractions while driving?

“Yes, individuals under the age of 30 are much more reliant on cellphones for uses other than voice communication. This age group uses their phones in ways that require more time on screens.”

How much time does it take for a driver to become distracted? 

“A driver is distracted once their eyes leave the road. It’s instantaneous.”

In what ways can drivers still be distracted without ever taking their eyes off of the road? 

“The only thing that really comes to mind is drivers who suffer medical conditions. The eyes rule the road. Some drivers who wear headphones while driving are unable to fully appreciate their surroundings.

What is your advice for avoiding deadly distractions on the road?

“Put your cellphone in the back seat, trunk, or another inaccessible location while driving.”

More and more states are enacting laws to combat distracted driving. Is this really helping? 

“Yes, it has been helping. However, the sample sizes of these studies are premature. This is something that will take years to demonstrate through statistics.”

Is the message that distracted driving is dangerous really getting across?

“Not at all. Distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Distracted driving yields a civil citation in most states whereas a DUI lands you in jail.” 

prosper shaked expert responses

Prosper Shaked is a personal injury attorney and owner of The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked
He has experience dealing with catastrophic accidents involving distracted drivers.


Even a Brief Distraction Can Have Life-Altering Consequences

What are some forms of distractions that most drivers may consider harmless, but are actually dangerous?

“Many vehicles are now equipped with infotainment systems meant to reduce the temptation of distracted driving. However, these systems can encourage the behavior they were meant to reduce.

While many drivers may believe that use of these systems are harmless, as in Ontario the use of an infotainment system embedded in the vehicle’s dashboard is not legally considered “distracted driving,” taking your eyes off the road for any length of time can lead to life-altering consequences for a driver, their passengers, others on the road, and pedestrians alike.”

Are there certain age groups or driver types who are more vulnerable to distractions while driving?

“Instances of distracted driving can be found in all driver types and ages, but the most prevalent causes of distracted driving vary depending on the driver’s age.

For example, younger drivers are more likely to be distracted by their cellphones, drivers in their 30s are more likely to be distracted by young children in their vehicle, and older drivers are more likely to be distracted by objects and occurrences outside their vehicle.” 

How much time does it take for a driver to become distracted?

“A driver is distracted as soon as they are not fully paying attention to the road, the road conditions, other vehicles in their vicinity, or any other hazard that may arise. This distraction occurs instantly – there is no applicable ‘grace period.’

A brief distraction may still have significant consequences, especially if a vehicle is traveling at highway speeds.

Additionally, road conditions can increase the stopping distance of a vehicle and reduce a driver’s visibility at the same time. A driver may only have a brief window to react to a hazard — as such, even a brief distraction can have life-altering consequences.”

steve raskin expert responses

Steve Rastin is a lawyer with Rastin & Associates.
His firm focuses on recovering fair compensation for victims of serious accidents.


Distracted Driving: The Bottom Line

As long as drivers are getting behind the wheel with phones, food, or even fatigue – distracted driving will continue to persist. What needs to change? The understanding that driving is already risky, and that giving in to distractions will only make it harder.

Perhaps Lamber puts it best:

“Driving may be the most dangerous thing we do almost every day of our lives, but it becomes routine – and we don’t consider it particularly risky,” says Lamber. “But now, take your attention away from the road and read a text message from a friend or quickly respond to an email, and what seems like a harmless deed can have deadly consequences.”

Remember, these consequences are 100 percent avoidable. Before you even get behind the wheel, make the decision not to drive distracted. Now that you know the deadliest driver distractions, check out where the distracted drivers in your state rank compared to those in other states.

Methodology: Deadliest Driver Distractions

In assembling our list of the deadliest driving distractions, we wanted to do more than just name distracting factors. We wanted to follow the data. In other words, what are the deadliest distractions for drivers, and how do studies and statistics support these claims?

We began by reading through reports published by a variety of agencies including (but not limited to) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Next, we determined which forms of distractions were having the greatest impact on drivers. Factors we focused on included:

  1. Fatality statistics (when available)
  2. Increased risk of injuries, crashes, and/or death
  3. The estimated time or frequency drivers spent engaged in these behaviors
  4. The manner of distraction as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (visual, manual, or cognitive)

The distractions were not listed in order of severity, but rather in keeping with the available research and studies. Finally, we sought out the expert opinions of those most familiar with the effects of distracted driving, including attorneys and driving school instructors.

Sadly, driving free of distractions isn’t all you need to protect your loved ones and investments. Accidents – out of your control – happen every day. Compare the best car insurance policies available in your state to protect what matters most.

References:

  1. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
  2. http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx
  3. https://www.bjensenlaw.com/blog/2018/02/could-eating-while-driving-cause-you-to-crash.shtml