Do Americans Really Care About Distracted Driving Risks?

a driver texting while driving

The 21st century offers many distractions that can lead to dangerous driving behaviors and motorists are beginning to wake up to the risks these distractions pose. In 2015, distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives and nearly 400,000 were injured by distracted drivers. The significant rates of injuries and deaths have resulted in legislation and public awareness campaigns to hit home the point that distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly problem that affects motorists and pedestrians of all ages.

Types of Distractions

There are many types of distractions that drivers face behind the wheel. These include eating or drinking while driving, reaching for objects, adjusting radio and comfort control dials, talking with friends/family, reading signs, “daydreaming,” or watching programming on cell phones or tablets. These distractions take driver’s focus away from the road and make it easy for them to miss oncoming traffic, pedestrians on sidewalks, traffic signals, and obstructions in the roadway. The statistics show that many motorists simply don’t view themselves as contributing to the risk of or becoming involved in a distracted driving accident.

Legislative Action

Perhaps the most well-known actions taken by legislators are cell phone restrictions and bans on texting while driving. 14 states ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, and 38 states heavily restrict the ability of teens to use hand-held, or hands-free phones while driving. 47 states ban the sending of text messages while driving. In Nevada, it is a primary offense that can result in a citation. The state’s year old “inattentive driving law” also allows law enforcement to issue citations for other distractions including eating, drinking, reading papers, etc.

Prevention is Possible

Preventing distracted driving accidents involves developing “good” driving habits. Motorists should monitor their own behavior and adjust accordingly so that distractions don’t derail their next trip down the road. This is especially important for parents with teenagers as teens are likely to adopt their parent’s behavior when the time comes for them to get behind the wheel. In 2015, 8% of individuals killed in distraction-affected crashes were teenagers, and 60% were between the ages of 15-19 which are the ages most people are learning to drive and developing driving habits and patterns they take with them into adulthood. Modeling and reinforcing good habits during this period helps considerably reduce the risk of causing a distracted driving accident.