Many states have enacted laws against distracted driving, and most of these laws pertain to cell phone use behind the wheel. Several states have banned the use of cell phones while driving or require the use of hands-free calling systems. Many possible distractions may cause car accidents, but texting while driving has proven to be one of the most dangerous activities a driver can perform when he or she is supposed to be paying attention to the road.
Three Types of Distraction in One
Crash research shows three main types of distraction that cause accidents, including:
- Manual distractions. These are any distractions that take the driver’s hands away from the vehicle controls can potentially lead to accidents. Adjusting climate controls, the car stereo, or using a hand to look for something inside the vehicle or between seats can make it impossible for the driver to maintain control of the vehicle.
- Visual distractions. These can include anything that causes the driver to look away from the road ahead. Examples can include looking in a mirror, glancing out the window to look at something on the side of the road, looking at a phone screen, or turning to talk to a passenger.
- Cognitive distractions. Many drivers commute home from work after stressful days, or a recent event causes a driver to feel shaken or frazzled before getting behind the wheel. Cognitive distractions draw a driver’s active thinking processes away from driving toward other issues, like fretting over a bad day at work or anxiety about the trip or the destination.
The main reason why texting and driving is the most dangerous type of distracted driving is because it entails all three types of distraction. The driver is thinking about the text conversation more than the road, looking at the phone to read messages and using at least one hand to type responses. Although most adults are adept at texting very quickly, it is never safe for a driver to assume that he or she can afford to look away from the road, even for a few seconds. At even moderate speeds, a few seconds of inattention is basically equivalent to driving blind for several hundred feet or more.
Texting and Driving Statistics
The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that about 1,000 injuries and nine deaths happen every day due to distracted driving. In 2015, about 26% of all traffic accidents involved the use of a cell phone. That same year about 42% of teens surveyed reported they had texted while driving in the past and research indicates that texting behind the wheel is the leading cause of death for teenagers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 400,000 drivers on average use cell phones behind the wheel in the United States every day. While each state has different laws pertaining to distracted driving, not every state has explicit laws forbidding texting behind the wheel. However, distracted driving laws almost always stipulate that any action done by the driver’s own choice that causes him or her to lose control of the vehicle counts as distracted driving.
Consequences of Texting While Driving
Texting while driving can make it impossible for a driver to react appropriately to a sudden change in traffic or dangerous road condition. Texting while driving also increases the likelihood of suffering injuries and other damages from preventable accidents. Even if texting while driving doesn’t cause an accident, a driver who texts behind the wheel may face fines, driver’s license suspension, and possibly even jail time.
The NHTSA reported more than 3,400 deaths due to distracted driving in 2016. While states may impose harsher penalties for distracted driving and issue more citations for illegal cell phone use behind the wheel, it is ultimately up to drivers to make better choices and eliminate distractions like texting while driving.