The dangers of distracted driving put distracted drivers and everyone else on the road at risk of being injured or killed. Because distraction takes a driver’s attention and mind off the road, distracted drivers are drastically more likely to cause a serious car accident. Studies show distracted driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Although texting while driving and dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving are two of the most common and most dangerous forms of distracted driving on our roads today, there are many other distractions that all drivers must guard against.
Any use of phones while driving narrows your ability to concentrate on the road. This includes using electronic devices to access the internet or social media. Using FaceTime, Zoom, GPS and features like Waze can also be dangerously distracted for drivers. Even talking to passengers in the car can be a form of distracted driving, which is why so many states have limitations on the numbers of passengers that new drivers can have in the car.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving occurs when a driver engages in an activity that distracts him or her from giving his or her full attention to driving safely and carefully. The dangers of distracted driving arise from the fact that a drivers’ attention is taken away from driving, leaving the driver effectively blinded to what is happening on the road.
What causes the dangers of distracted driving?
There are generally three main types of distracted driving that can lead to danger: (1) visual distractions that take a driver’s eyes off the road; (2) manual distractions which cause a driver to take his or her hands off of the steering wheel; and (3) cognitive distractions which take the driver’s mind off the fact that he or she is actually driving a vehicle.
What are the dangers of distracted driving?
The dangers of distracted driving include distracted drivers being far more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash and drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone are 12 times more likely to crash. The danger is that someone will be injured or killed.
Research shows that texting while driving takes the drivers’ eyes and attention away from the road for 4.6 seconds. If the driver is traveling at 55 mph, then he or she will have driven “blindfolded” the entire length of a football field (including in the endzones) during those 4.6 seconds.
The driving behaviors that most commonly give rise to the dangers of distracted driving include: (1) texting; (2) talking on the phone; (3) talking to passengers; (4) accessing the internet, social media, videos or images; (5) using FaceTime or Zoom; (6) using GPS; (7) using Waze; and (8) eating or drinking.
Which is the most dangerous kind of distracted driving?
Texting is the most dangerous kind of distracted driving. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to cause a crash. It involves visual, manual and cognitive distraction. NHTSA has called “texting while driving” the “most alarming distraction” because it takes a driver’s “eyes off the road for 5 seconds.”
It is important to note that dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving – which makes the driver 12 times more likely to crash – is also one of the most dangerous kinds of distracted driving.
Similarly, research on the dangers of distracted driving also shows that a driver’s risk of crashing is 2 to 4 times higher just from talking on a mobile device – whether hand-held or hands-free – while driving.
Do hands-free texting and cell phone devices help eliminate the problem?
Drivers’ use of hands-free, voice-based communication devices are not risk free and do not necessarily eliminate the dangers of distracted, according to a AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety study. In fact, in some instance, the cognitive distraction from hands-free devices rose to the level of drunk driving.
Specifically, the study stated:
- “Given the current trends toward more voice commands in the vehicle, . . [t]he assumption that if the eyes were on the road and the hands were on the steering wheel then voice-based interactions would be safe appears to be unwarranted. Simply put, hands-free does not mean risk-free.”
- “[V]oice-based interaction” such as “send[ing] and receiv[ing] text or e-mail messages, mak[ing] postings on Facebook, interact[ing] with global position system, and utiliz[ing] voice commands for controlling functions of the vehicle” are “not risk free, and in some instances the impairments to driving may rise to the level associated with drunk driving . . . Just because a new technology does not take the eyes off the road does not make it safe to be used while the vehicle is in motion.”
Statistics on the dangers of distracted driving
13% of the fatal distraction-related crashes that occurred in the U.S. in 2019 involved drivers who were “talking on, listening to, or engaged in some other cell phone activity at the time of the crash.” Other distractions included talking to passengers, adjusting the radio and/or climate controls, and eating.
In 2020, there were 14,326 car crashes involving distracted drivers. 2,394 of those crashes involved 2,397 distracted drivers who were “using a cell phone” at the time of the crash. Other distractions included: (1) talking to passengers; (2) other activity inside the vehicle; and (3) outside activity.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself against the dangers of distracted driving, please consider the following: (1) use your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature; (2) silence your calls and texts; (3) put your phone in the glove box or truck; (4) do not eat or drink while driving; and (5) do not read maps, watch videos or look at images.
Were you injured by a distracted driver? Call Michigan Auto Law first
If you have suffered a personal injury in an accident caused by an at-fault driver who ignored the dangers of distracted driving and you would like to speak with an experienced attorney about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation and/or No-Fault benefits, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced auto accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website. Steven Gursten is the current President of the American Association for Justice Distracted Driving Litigation Group. He lectures and teaches auto accident attorneys throughout the nation on the dangers of distracted driving and on how to obtain evidence of distracted driving to help their clients who have been injured by distracted drivers. Steve has spoken at national lectures, seminars, conferences and webinars on the subject of distracted driving evidence and discovery. Also, Steve speaks to high school students and parent groups throughout Michigan as part of Joel Feldman’s End Distracted Driving Campaign school and parent presentations.
(Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; Michigan State Police, “Distracted Driving” page; NHTSA, Distracted Driving, “What is Distracted Driving?”; AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety, Fact Sheet – Cognitive Distraction; Source: AAA-FTS, “Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile,” page 29; NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, Research Note, Distracted Driving 2019, published April 2021; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Data Search Query Tool, “Crash: Driver Distracted (2016+)”; MTCF, “Distracted Driving Related Crashes in Michigan: 2016-2020”; MTCF, Fact Sheets, “Cell Phone Use,” 2020)