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Distracted Driving is Dangerous and Deadly

Published March 8, 2024
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The Dangers of Distracted Driving are many.

This article has been reviewed by licensed insurance industry expert Moshe Fishman on March 8, 2024.

Texting while driving is dangerous and doing so is illegal in all but two states. Why? it has resulted in many fatal crashes. But how safe is talking, eating, drinking, and reaching while driving? With all of the potential types of distractions, there is a good chance that you may be guilty of distracted driving at some point. 

On average, driving while distracted results in the deaths of eight people per day in the US. It’s not only dangerous, but citations for distracted driving can increase your insurance rates

What this article covers

  • Defines the term distracted driving with several examples.
  • Illustrates how a driver’s senses are impaired when distracted while driving.
  • Discusses the role of age in incidents of being distracted while behind the wheel.
  • Examines state laws and citations for distracted driving.
  • Explores how insurance rates are affected and how to prevent distracted driving.

What you should know:

  • Your senses are impaired when you drive and are distracted so you cannot drive safely.
  • You are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident when distracted.
  • Teenage drivers have increased incidents of driving with distractions as they get older.
  • Insurance rates can be affected if you receive a citation for this type of violation.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is inherently dangerous as it relates to the activities that pull a driver’s eyes away from the road and act of driving. The incidents of distracted driving are much more common than you’d think. Here are some examples:

  • Texting or talking on the phone when driving, even when using a hands-free Bluetooth device
  • Conversing with a passenger
  • Reaching for an item or petting a dog
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking while behind the wheel
  • Changing the radio station or a playlist on your phone
  • Using navigation technology on your car’s GPS system or other devices
  • Looking at the scene of an accident
  • Putting on makeup or shaving (yes, shaving)

Distracted driving and the senses

Distracted driving occurs when the driver’s senses are impaired due to some behavior or action by the driver. 

Visual: Happens whenever drivers take their eyes off the road.

Manual: This denotes when a driver takes one or both hands off the wheel.

Auditory: These distractions occur whenever a driver’s sense of hearing is impaired.

Cognitive: Whenever the driver’s mind wanders from the task of driving.

How dangerous is distracted driving?

Consider these distracted driving statistics from the NHTSA:

  • In 2020, 3,142 people died in distracted driving related accidents
  • Texting drivers are unfortunately 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident
  • More than 1/3 of drivers admitted to texting while driving
  • 25% of distracted-driving fatalities involved young adult drivers aged 20-29

Distracted driving and teenage/young adult drivers

When breaking distracted drivers down by age, teen drivers are the biggest offenders. The chances of an accident increase when there are teen passengers in the vehicle. According to a Youth Risk Behavior Study, the older the teenage driver gets, the more likely they are to engage in distracted driving. The percentage of drivers who texted or emailed via age group:

  • 15 years old: 16%
  • 16 years old: 31%
  • 17 years old: 51%
  • 18 years old: 60%

When you combine this with the fact that the teenage brain is still developing, and that teen drivers don’t have a lot of driving experience, even the slightest distraction to them becomes incredibly dangerous. 

How dangerous is distracted driving compared to drunk driving?

Although drunk driving still accounts for more deaths, the number of accidents and economic impact of distracted driving and drunk driving is almost the same.

  • In 2020, distracted driving accounted for 400,000 injuries per year compared to 430,000 injuries from drunk driving.
  • Distracted driving accounted for 3,142 deaths compared to 10,142 deaths caused by drunk driving.
  • For economic costs, distracted driving accounted for 40 billion compared to 44 billion caused by drunk driving.

State laws on distracted driving

Distracted driving laws vary from state to state and so does the severity of the penalties. No matter which state you live in, distracted driving has its consequences such as fines, points on your license, or the suspension of your driver’s license. 

  • All states except Missouri and Montana have a primary law banning text messaging.
  • There are 24 states that have bans against using a handheld device while driving.
  • Twenty-three states ban any cell phone use while driving.
  • Two states have a secondary law specifically forbidding texting and driving.

Will a distracted driving citation show up on my DMV record?

Whether distracted driving citations go on your record depends on which state you live in. You should review your state’s laws to learn if they use a point system or if all offenses go on your driving record. 

Distracted driving and auto insurance rates

As with any unsafe driving behavior, distracted driving can increase your insurance rates. How much your premium could increase depends on your insurance company and your driving record. If you receive a ticket for distracted driving and it’s added to your record, that single citation may be enough to raise your rates—especially if you’re a younger driver. To what degree depends on several factors including your state laws and if you’re involved in an accident, which is more likely to result in a premium increase.

If you’re involved in an accident and your insurance company can prove that you were driving while distracted, they’re more likely to take drastic actions such as possibly dropping your coverage. This is especially true for car crashes in which people were killed. Teenagers who cause accidents because of texting and driving are most at risk of having their coverage dropped because they’re already in a high-risk category.

How to prevent distracted driving

Follow these tips to avoid the visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive distractions that can lead to being pulled over, tickets and citations, and accidents. 

  • Keep electronic devices out of reach: Your phone and other devices won’t be a distraction if they’re inaccessible while driving. So, secure your phone in a purse, glove compartment, or pocket. Safely pull over to the side of the road if you need to use your phone immediately or wait until you get home. 
  • Designated texter: Assign a passenger to monitor and send text messages and make phone calls while you drive.
  • Use automated messages: Most cell phones allow you to set up an automated message when you’re driving. If you happen to get a call or text while driving, your phone will send a message alerting the caller that you are not accessible, and that you will get back to them. 
  • Eating while driving: Eating on the road can be dangerous especially when something unexpected happens like dropping food or spilling a drink. It’s a good idea to pull over and eat in a parking lot.
  • Secure pets and children: Make sure all passengers are properly buckled in or restrained, including pets.
  • Get directions beforehand: Program your GPS before you even start your engine. 
  • Advise family members not to text and drive: If you’re riding with someone who’s texting and driving, speak up and ask them to put their phone away. 
  • Refrain from making phone calls: Even using Bluetooth to make phone calls can be dangerous. Limit or eliminate altogether making phone calls while driving. 
  • Keep your eyes and mind on the road: Avoid any distracting activities that take your hands off the steering well and your eyes and mind off the road.

It should be the responsibility of every driver to pay attention as they control 2,000 lb. or more of machinery. Driving attentively while on the road protects us all.

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