Crashes involving distracted drivers killed more than 2,800 people and injured 400,000 others in 2018. About 8% of all fatal crashes were affected by some type of driver distraction.1
Mobile use was a factor in 13% of all distraction-affected crashes, despite the fact many states are now enforcing laws banning texting and handheld mobile device use while driving.2 Legal or not, a distraction is any activity taking your eyes off the road, your mind off the task, and/or your hands off the steering wheel – if only for a moment.
You may be on the road less often during the pandemic, but it’s still important to be aware of common behaviors that can affect your driving performance and potentially cause a terrible accident.
Wait to talk or text
Drivers who are placing or answering calls, or having a conversation, tend to be less focused on potential hazards.
Hands-free devices are mandated for drivers in some states, but their use doesn’t always eliminate the distraction. It’s safest to make your calls before you drive. If your phone rings while you’re driving, let voicemail pick it up.
Texting is one of the riskiest things people do while driving, because a driver who’s reading or sending a message may spend several critical seconds looking away from the road.
Young drivers ages 16 to 24 are most likely to use a handheld mobile device while driving, so it’s important to discuss the risks with young drivers in your family.3
Life in the car
People and animals are sometimes the most difficult distractions to control, but it’s important to remember simply turning around to talk to passengers could be a deadly mistake.
It’s not easy to explain to young children that driving demands your full attention, but it’s worth a try. Diversions such as books, games and toys may also help. If a situation involving a child passenger becomes a distraction, it’s best to pull over to a safe spot.
Pets should always be secured in a pet carrier or harness device and never be allowed to roam freely in the car or sit on your lap.
As normal or necessary as it may seem, fiddling with a navigation system, music player, or climate controls can take your attention away from the road long enough to create a hazardous situation. It’s best to delegate these jobs to a passenger or wait until the car is stopped to make adjustments.
Eating or drinking while driving a vehicle presents another set of challenges. When your hands and your mind are otherwise occupied – such as when opening or unwrapping, reaching or leaning, spilling and wiping – the likelihood of an accident increases. For the same reason, grooming tasks such as applying makeup, styling hair, and shaving should never be done while driving, even if you’re late for work.
Driving demands a high level of mind and body coordination to control the vehicle and respond appropriately to hazards on the road. Concentrating on the task at hand and reducing distractions may help you and your passengers arrive safely at your destination.
1,2National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2020. 3Insurance Information Institute, 2020.