Distracted driving: The dangers involve more than texting

Distracted driving: The dangers involve more than texting

Most people say they would never drink and drive, but they may have driving habits that are just as dangerous. Cell phone use, including texting, has been found to impair drivers as much as being intoxicated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cellphone use is a leading cause of distracted driving accidents in the U.S.

As the dangers of texting and driving become better known, many drivers are pledging not to text behind the wheel. In many states, including California, texting while driving is against the law. California law prohibits the use of handheld cellphones in the car, although adult drivers may use hands-free devices. Unfortunately, cellphones are not the only distraction in the car.

A distraction can be anything that takes your eyes off the road, your mind off the road, or your hands off the steering wheel. Many activities involve more than one type of distraction. Changing the radio station, for example, may require drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel to press buttons and their eyes off the road to look at the radio display.

The result of distractions can be deadly. The NHTSA says that 80 percent of motor vehicle accidents and 65 percent of near-accidents involve driver distraction. In addition to cell phone use, the distractions most likely to contribute to an accident include:

  • Looking at something outside the vehicle
  • Reading
  • Applying makeup
  • Reaching for an object inside the vehicle

For more information on distracted driving, review the California Department of Motor Vehicles' online publication, "Driver Distractions - Don't Be a Statistic."

Sources: California Department of Motor Vehicles, "Driver Distractions - Don't Be a Statistic," April 2011; distraction.gov

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