Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is considered to be anything that keeps your attention away from the road while you’re behind the wheel. Putting on lipstick, lighting a cigarette, fiddling with the GPS, retrieving a dropped sippy cup from the back seat floor, and talking on the phone or texting are all among the activities that are implicated in distracted driving.

Ten percent of traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all injuries sustained in a car accident are a direct result of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving distractions are classified into three types: manual, visual, and cognitive.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions are those that take your hands off the wheel. These include eating, adjusting the radio or A/C controls, and digging around in your purse for a stick of gum.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions are those that take your eyes off the road. These include looking in the glove compartment for a map or your favorite CD, checking your visage in the visor mirror, or watching something that’s going on away from the road, such as a low-flying plane or a fight on the sidewalk.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions are those that take your mind away from the task of driving. These include daydreaming, thinking about what you need to pick up at the store, and getting caught up in your favorite song on the radio.

The Most Dangerous Driving Distraction

Texting is the most dangerous driving distraction, especially for young or inexperienced drivers. Although 90 percent of drivers in a recent study deemed texting unacceptable while driving, 35 percent of those same people admitted to sending a text or email while behind the wheel.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, at any given moment during daylight hours in the U.S., over 600,000 drivers are using a cell phone or other electronic device while they’re driving, and one out of every four accidents in the U.S. is caused by a texting driver. Texting while driving has been found six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol.

All but five states in the U.S. have banned texting while driving, and 14 states have laws in place that prohibit using any type of handheld electronic device, including cell phones, while operating a motor vehicle. Still, using a cell phone to talk or text directly causes 1.6 million car accidents every year.

Just one moment of distraction can irrevocably change your life or someone else’s in an instant. According to Georgia Injury Centers, victims of others’ negligent driving often face financial ruin due to medical bills and the inability to work as a result of a disability stemming from a car accident. Car and truck injury claims related to texting drivers have skyrocketed over the past decade, and it’s easy to see why: Even a quick text keeps drivers’ eyes off the road for about five seconds at a time, and at highway speeds, that equates to a distance of 300 feet during which the car is not in the control of the driver.

What You Can Do

Let your friends and family know that if they text you and don’t hear back right away, it may be because you’re driving. Silence your phone or keep it in your purse or glove compartment while you’re driving. If you absolutely must send a text, pull over safely and stop the car first. It’s human nature to think that nothing bad will happen to us, but when it comes to texting and driving, too many people have been proven wrong. In the end, sending a quick text to your pal isn’t worth the heartache of losing someone you love or causing the death of someone else’s loved one.