What You Should Know About Distracted Driving

What You Should Know About Distracted DrivingIf there’s one action that just about  every driver has been guilty of, it is distracted driving. We all have engaged in it, whether it is checking our phones while being stuck in traffic or trying to eat a snack behind the wheel. However, distracted driving is not a harmless behavior. There are occasions where distracted driving can cause serious motor vehicle accidents. Here is a glimpse into the dangers of distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any type of activity that distracts the driver and takes their attention away from the road. Based on this definition, you may be thinking that most of the actions you take can be classified as distracted driving; and that is correct. Even harmless actions like having a conversation with the passengers in your car can be considered distracted driving.

Examples of distracted driving

The most common actions that can distract drivers include:

  • Sending a text message
  • Talking on the phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Adjusting the GPS system
  • Applying makeup
  • Turning the radio station
  • Smoking
  • Paying attention to children or pets in the vehicle

What are the common types of distractions?

Each one of these actions can be classified as a specific type of distraction. Drivers typically experience three types of distractions.

Manual

Manual distractions are distractions that take a driver’s hands off of the wheel. Applying makeup, smoking, adjusting the GPS system, and sending a text message would be examples of manual distractions.

Cognitive

Cognitive distractions are distractions that take a driver’s mind off of the road. Daydreaming, paying attention to any children or pets in the vehicle, talking on the phone, and listening to the radio can be considered cognitive distractions.

Visual

Visual distractions are distractions that take a driver’s eyes off of the road. Sending a text message, eating and drinking, turning the radio station, adjusting the GPS system, and applying makeup can be considered visual distractions.

Distracted driving statistics

As simple as these actions are, they can create deadly consequences for other motorists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports in 2020, 3,142 people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports nine people are killed every day in the United States from an accident caused by a distracted driver. Distraction behind the wheel of a car can increase the chances of an accident.

Car accidents caused by distracted driving

Distracted drivers are capable of creating some serious car accidents, including:

  • Rear-end accidents. Distracted drivers can cause rear-end accidents when they suddenly strike the vehicle in front of them from behind. These types of accidents happen when the distracted driver fails to pay attention to the flow of traffic and fails to brake when it is too late.
  • Pedestrian accidents. Other motorists are not the only people who are at risk of being injured by distracted drivers. Pedestrians who are in the middle of crossing intersections and crosswalks can become hurt by distracted drivers who fail to notice their presence.
  • Sideswipe accidents. Distracted drivers can cause sideswipe accidents when they move into a lane that is occupied by another driver.
  • Intersection accidents. One of the most common locations where motor vehicle accidents take place is the intersection. When distracted drivers fail to pay attention and ignore traffic laws, they can hit another pedestrian or another motorist who has the right of way.
  • Head-on accidents. Head-on accidents happen when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions crash into one another. Distracted drivers can cause these types of accidents when they drift into the centerline of the roadway.

How are federal agencies addressing distracted driving?

Distracted driving has become so much of an issue that federal and state agencies have implemented programs to address the problem. Federal agencies like the CDC and the U.S. Department of Transportation have developed campaigns that help address specific types of drivers.

One of the CDC’s campaigns include the Parents Are The Key Campaign, which encourages parents and other community members to keep teen drivers accountable and safe. Congress incorporated various materials to driver’s license exams that brings awareness to distracted driving in 2021. Even this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation has lent its support to the National Roadway Safety Strategy, a project that is experimenting with the idea of mandatory technology that detects distracted driving in vehicles.

How is Missouri addressing distracted driving?

As of 2022, Missouri is one of just two states where texting while driving is not illegal. In fact, Missouri only bans distracted driving for drivers under the age of 21 years old. However, House Bill 1487 has been sponsored by Rep. Jeff Porter of Montgomery City. If it passes, it would ban distracted driving and institute fines for commercial and non-commercial drivers.

Nowhere in current law does it say it’s wrong or unsafe for someone 22 or older to text and drive. In fact, it falsely implies that, magically, once a driver turns 22, they’re experienced enough to drive and manipulate a cell phone while driving. The current law also doesn’t say it’s wrong or unsafe for a driver of any age to Snapchat, TikTok, FaceTime or watch an episode of Ozark on Netflix while they’re driving. And, yes, those things are increasingly happening every day.

What drivers can do to reduce the chances of distracted driving

Drivers can also take specific actions that reduce the chances of a distracted driving accident. Some of these actions include stopping trying to multitask. Whatever actions that you need to accomplish before you begin driving, do them before you start your vehicle. You can also add particular apps on your phone that reduce the possibility of distracted driving. If you are traveling with passengers, your passengers can assist with reducing the distractions on your trip. If you need the radio or GPS system adjusted, ask your passengers to assist with those tasks.

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