Avoid Deadly Distractions Behind the Wheel

Avoid Deadly Distractions Behind the Wheel

Many people have a limited definition of “distracted driving”: They think it only means texting behind the wheel.

There’s good reason for that, because texting requires visual, manual and cognitive attention – the same attention required for safe driving. But although texting is perhaps the most dangerous distraction, there are many others that can impact how you drive, whether you realize it or not. And they can be just as deadly.

How deadly? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2015 more than 390,000 people were injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers – with more than 3,200 killed. (Distracted Driving 2016 stats: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812517)

Here are just a few of the things that can distract drivers on the road:

  • Talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device.
  • Eating or drinking.
  • Talking to passengers.
  • Grooming (yes, there really are people who apply makeup or shave on their way to work).
  • Reading, including maps.
  • Adjusting the stereo.

Younger drivers are the most distracted of all – according to the government’s distraction.gov  website, people in their 20s make up 38% of drivers who were using cell phones before a fatal crash, and 10% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted, too.

With distractions more prevalent than ever (more than 150 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. every month), how can you, and those you love, be safer behind the wheel? Here are a few tips:

Don’t use the phone: This includes texting as well as talking, unless it’s an emergency. Even hands-free conversations can take your attention off the road.

Eat before you leave, or after you get there: Scarfing down that burger with one hand on the wheel means your focus is divided – and you probably don’t have as much control over your car as you should. Bonus benefit: Keeping your meals and your driving separate means you’re much less likely to get ketchup on your pants.

Know where you’re going: Nobody likes to be lost. But messing around with your car’s GPS (or the maps app on your smartphone) while you’re moving can lead to something you’ll hate even more – an accident.

Talk to your family about safe driving: Having a conversation with your spouse as they’re driving home? That’s a perfect opportunity to say, “I’ll let you focus on the road; we can talk when you get here.” And if you have young drivers in the household, be sure to have a conversation about their phones and other potential issues, such as their passengers – a key distraction for teens.

Watch for other distracted drivers: Just because you aren’t distracted doesn’t mean that other drivers are focused on safe driving. Stay in control and be vigilant – you’ll be ready to react when someone else makes the wrong move.

Distracted driving isn’t just “one of those things” that happens, like a tire blowout or mechanical failure that isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s 100% preventable – and by committing to avoiding distractions while you drive, you’ll help make the road safer for everyone.

Part 2: Avoid Texting While Driving

Driving Distractions - texting and driving

(Series:  10 Dangerous Practices to Avoid While Driving)

In December 2014, two school buses crashed killing two young girls and a teacher’s aide as well as causing injuries for many more riders.  After a six-month investigation, it was determined that the driver was driving while distracted due to sending and receiving texts.

Although this story is tragic, it is not unusual.  98 percent of adults say that they know that texting and driving is unsafe, yet 49 percent of adults admit doing it.

How dangerous is texting and driving?

9 Americans are killed every day in crashes involving distracted driving, such as using a cellphone, texting or eating.

  • There is a 25% chance probability (1 in 4) that a motor vehicle crash involved a cellphone.
  • 40% of teens say they have been a passenger in a car whose driver used a cellphone in a way that put them in danger.
  • 33% of U.S. drivers ages 18 to 64 report reading or writing text messages while driving in the previous month.
  • 341,000 motor vehicle crashes in 2013 involved texting.
  • Using a cellphone while driving increases the risk of a crash 4X.
  • 2 seconds is the length of time that a driver can safely glance away from the road while operating a motor vehicle.
  • On average, a driver sending a text takes their eyes off the road for 5 seconds.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers, regardless of age, in 46 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • A 2012 survey found that the most likely age group to text and drive is 21 – 24 years old.


As you can see, texting and driving is a dangerous combination.  Choose to drive safely and be a focused driver rather than texting.