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Distracted Driving FAQs

As a growing problem on today's roads, distracted driving is an issue to be well informed on. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving occurs when you engage in ANY activity not related to driving while operating a vehicle. It has become a leading cause of car accidents in the United States.

What are the types of driving distractions?

Driving distractions can be broken up into the following major categories:

  • Visual.
    • Anything causing you to take your eyes off of the road.
      • E.g. reading a text, adjusting the radio, looking for something in your car.
  • Manual.
    • Anything causing you to take your hands off of the steering wheel.
      • E.g. doing your makeup, smoking, eating.
  • Cognitive.
    • Anything causing you to take your mind off of driving.
      • E.g. arguing with a passenger, talking on the phone.

Texting and driving is perhaps the most dangerous distraction since it encompasses all distracted driving categories. For more, visit our page on the three types of driving distractions.

How problematic is distracted driving?

Fatalities caused by distracted driving occur daily in the United States.

When someone dies because of a distracted driver, several people are affected: their parents, friends, spouses, children, siblings, etc. Luckily, distracted driving is an easily preventable problem as long as you're completely focused on the road ahead and those around you.

Who are the distracted drivers?

At some point, almost everyone has engaged in distracted driving. Whether you're eating in the car, changing the radio station, or tending to your kids in the back seat, distracted driving has seemingly become second nature. It's important to notice and break these habits so the roads are safer for all of us.

Research shows that younger, less experienced drivers are more likely to engage in fatal distracted driving behaviors than older, more experienced drivers.

What is the government doing to combat distracted driving?

Several states have enacted laws prohibiting their citizens from texting and driving, and it is illegal nationwide for any federal employee to text and drive. Some states also have laws against using a hand-held device for any purpose, and require that you use a hands-free device (e.g., Bluetooth).

Is it safe to use a hands-free device to talk on the phone?

Research has shown that any type of cell phone use can detrimentally distract the driver. Talking on the phone, even using a hands-free device, is a cognitive distraction and could keep you from noticing certain visual (e.g. signs, stopped cars, pedestrians) and audio (e.g. sirens) elements of your environment.

What should I do if I need to make an emergency phone call?

If you find yourself in an emergency situation while driving, the best way to ensure everyone's safety is to pull over to a safe area, away from moving traffic. Try to remain calm and make all of the necessary phone calls with your car turned off.

Are there apps to combat distracted driving?

Yes, there are a few apps you can download to your phone (iOS and Android) that monitor and, in some cases, reward you for driving without distraction.

Additionally, there are certain apps that prevent you from calling or texting while the car is in motion. These apps can be especially useful for parents of new drivers who want to make especially sure that their kids won't be driving distracted.

What can I do to combat distracted driving?

As a driver, it is your responsibility to keep yourself and those around you as safe as possible. This means keeping your hands, eyes, and mind on the road at all times. A few small adjustments to your driving routine could save a life. For example, before you get in the car:

  • Turn your cell phone off or on airplane mode.
  • Finish what you're eating/drinking.
  • Set your GPS toward your destination.
  • Finish your hair or makeup.
  • Make sure your kids are properly buckled (so you don't have to check while driving).

Finally, take the pledge against distracted driving, and become a part of the solution.

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