Distracted Driving: Consequences, Prevention, and Risks
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has found that distracted driving causes more than 1,000 vehicle-related injuries each day. Additionally, nine people die daily because of a distracted driver. No one wants to cause an accident because their attention was diverted for one moment. Most people know that it’s not safe to text or touch their phones while they drive. However, there are many more distractions that lots of people never think about. Petting a dog, changing a song, fiddling with a coffee cup, or looking over at a passenger are also distractions when driving. Different types of distractions can take your mind, eyes, or hands away from the task of driving, any of which can be dangerous.
- Having a conversation with passengers
- Talking on the phone, even if using hands-free mode
- Checking on a child or pet
- Thinking about anything other than driving, including daydreaming
- Driving when angry or otherwise emotionally unsettled
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or even prescribed medications
- Looking for a new song or radio station
- Checking the GPS
- Adjusting the car’s temperature
- Looking for or trying to retrieve items on the floor of the car or in the backseat
- Staring at the view instead of at the traffic
- Looking at an accident
- Checking your phone at a red light
- Drinking or eating when behind the wheel
- Looking for things like a phone or gum in a bag
- Smoking, from lighting the cigarette to putting it out when finished
- Assisting a passenger
- Adjusting a seatbelt
- Touching any touchscreen or dial while in motion
- Texting or touching a phone at all
Distracted Driving Laws in the U.S
- Forty-eight states have enacted texting-while-driving laws.
- Twenty-five states have laws that ban drivers from touching their phones while they are behind the wheel.
- Some of these states have primary enforcement, which means police can pull any driver they see touching a phone.
- Some states have special distracted driving laws for young drivers.
- Montana is the only state that doesn’t have any laws regarding distracted driving, but some cities have passed laws regarding distracted driving.
- Missouri has a ban on using phones at the wheel, but it only impacts drivers under the age of 21.
- Twenty states have made it illegal for bus drivers to use a cell phone while driving.
- A 2009 executive order banned federal employees from talking on the phone or texting while driving.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order in 2010 that banned all drivers of commercial vehicles from texting while operating a vehicle, and in 2011, that ban extended to all cell phone use by anyone driving a commercial vehicle.
Distracted Driving Consequences in the U.S.
- All states with anti-distraction laws inflict penalties on those found breaking these laws.
- Most states charge distracted drivers a fine.
- Alaska and Utah require those convicted of breaking these laws to serve jail time.
- Some states have a demerit program, and every time a ticket is received for distracted driving, points accrue. After a certain number of points, the driver’s license is either revoked or suspended.
- People who cause an accident due to distracted driving are subject to harsher penalties.
- Accidents that lead to injury or death of a passenger or the other driver due to distracted driving often lead to lengthy jail or prison sentences and conviction for vehicular manslaughter.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
- Be ready to drive before turning on the car. Everyone in the car should be properly buckled up. The destination should be loaded into the GPS. A playlist or radio station everyone likes should be playing. And anything needed from a bag or the backseat should be safely stored within reach of the driver.
- Pull over if a phone call must be made or answered.
- Don’t eat while driving. It’s safer to find a parking lot and eat in a parked car if it’s necessary to have a snack.
- Tired drivers should leave the road and pull into a rest area, gas station, or parking lot to rest.
- If a passenger or pet traveling in the car needs assistance, pull over and help them while the car is parked.
- All passengers should remain buckled up and in their seats at all times.
- The driver should ask for all conversation to cease if they need to direct their full attention to the road.
- When someone is behind the wheel, they should simply drive. This is not the time to multitask.
- Learn the Facts About Distracted Driving
- Driving Distractions Fact Sheet
- The Dangers of Distracted Driving
- Distracted Driving Affected Me
This page was last updated by Jalal J. Dallo