Distracted driving is more than what
most drivers think it is.

Cell phone use and car crashes

Most of the information you hear or read about distracted driving is focused on cell phone use while driving. Evidence shows cell phone use is neither the most dangerous of distractions for drivers, nor is it the most common cause of car collisions.

In a Virginia Tech 100 car study, The most dangerous distracted driving activity was reaching for a moving object, making a crash almost 9 times more likely.

Dialing a cell phone was just under 3 times more likely to cause a collision.
Talking on a cell phone only raised the collision risk slightly above 1.

Also crash statistics from at least two states, New York and Kentucky show cell phone use as a cause of much less than 1% of reported collisions.

In 2008 New York crash statistics showed inattention or driving distracted as the cause of 18% of collisions, while cell phone use was involved in only .3% of car crashes.

Kentucky 2008 crash data showed driver inattention or distracted driving as causing 24% of collisions and cell phone use as causing .8% of crashes.

It is worth noting New york has had laws against cell phone use while driving since 2001.

Kentucky just passed their first cell phone ban for drivers under 18, April 25th 2010, after these 2008 crash stats were reported.

Notice reported cell phone use in crashes is still under 1% in Kentucky even with cell phone use for all drivers being legal. (though the rate is slightly more than double that of New york.)

A NHSTA 2002 survey found .1% of drivers involved in collisions attributed the crash to cell phone use.

The conclusion here is, while Cell Phone use should not be ignored as a contribution to distracted driving collisions, other driving distractions are more common and actually cause more collisions than cell phone use.

Virginia Commonwealth university study in 2003 showed Looking at the scene of a crash caused the most collisons (16%) driver fatigue 12%, looking at other outside scenery 10%, passenger distraction 9%, while cell phone distraction was the cause of only 5% of the crashes.

NHSTA reports another 2003 study shows an outside object caused 23% of crashes while passengers caused 20% and cell phones 3.6%.

Watch the Our Lives Are In Your Hands message video then click below to take the safe driving pledge.

Pledge to drive safe

Other forms of distracted driving

The Statistics above is enough to make you wonder why the attention is focused so much on cell phone use and laws against it while driving, and not more on other distracted driving practices.

In my experience as a driver and driving instructor, the distractions that have caused rear end collisions were mental distractions, usually people in a hurry.

one woman was late to pick up her child from day care, didn't see our vehicle at the stop sign and rear ended us.

Another driver was in a hurry to leave the DMV office to get something at home and hit us backing out of her stall.

A student of mine was stopped at a green light for three emergency vehicles. Someone rear ended us because he was paying attention to the green light, not us stopped for the emergency vehicles.

Shortly after I had gotten my drivers license I was stopped, waiting to turn out of a shopping center driveway with a vehicle ahead. I looked to my right for 1-2 seconds and as I started looking straight again it looked as if the vehicle was moving into the road. It wasn't, I moved forward and bumped the vehicle.

One of my drive students recently told me his mother was stopped at a light, a bottle rolled under the pedals. When she reached for the bottle her foot went off the brake, the vehicle went forward hitting the car ahead.

Notice in each of the pictures below, whether you are leaning forward or backward to grab something, how far you stretch your whole body away from it's natural, safe driving position.
Thats aside from taking your hand off the wheel and eyes off the road.

Other drivers have reported being side swiped more than once by a distracted driver reading a map.
GPS systems can help eliminate this distraction.

Tips to avoid distracted driving.

It is impossible to eliminate all distractions while you drive. You don't have control over what things and situations you pass on the road as you drive. You probably can't forget that phone call with upsetting, or exciting information you got just before you are to leave for work or some other appointment. You also don't have control over what your passenger might say or do that would distract you.

Driving itself is a multitasking activity. You must be able to keep your vehicle centered in your lane, while going a certain set speed, at the same time keeping a safe distance with vehicles ahead and to the side, all while watching for hazards ahead, to the sides and behind you. There is very little room for any distracted driving with the multitasking a driver must already do.

Think of how many different places this requires you to be watching inside and outside your vehicle just to drive safe and legal. No wonder we teach move your eyes every two seconds, without taking your eyes off the road ahead for more than a second.

This is enough for a person to be doing without added distractions. while you can't eliminate all distractions, you can do some things to minimize distracted driving behind the wheel.

1. Be well rested and alert before driving.

Fatigue and physical exhaustion causes less mental alertness and a more easily distracted driver. If that means taking a short nap before a long drive home, it will be worth it to avoid a collison from being tired and distracted.

2. Keep safe driving as your first priority when driving.

It is a mental task, but keep reminding yourself that getting someplace safely is more important than multitasking in the car, or looking at things you're curious about around your vehicle, and even more important than thinking about that problem in your life you need to solve.

3. Consider taking a defensive driving course.

As years go by, most drivers get lazy about good, safe driving habits.
A defensive driving course can refresh your mind and motivation on safe driving practices.
A course that involves behind the wheel driving will be the most effective, but even a classroom course will help you remember and regain good, crash prevention driving habits that will help you avoid dangerous distractions.

4. Park to eat.

If you are really so hungry that you need to eat immediately after getting a meal in a drive thru, park your car to eat, then drive to your destination.

Unless it is finger food like fries, you will create a mess and be compelled to take your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. Safe driving is more important than immediately satisfying your hunger.

5. Drink with a lid on your cup, only going slow and straight or stopped.

If your drink did spill while driving, the mess will be much less with a lid.
Also don't pick up the drink in the middle of a curve or turn. You need your hands and full attention on the road when turning. Being stopped is safest to pick up anything while driving

6. Don't hold a cup between your knees while driving.

The second you make a hard stop or tense you legs up, that cup is going to spill and with a paper cup the lid will probably be squeezed off.

Notice what is happening in the picture to the right. The driver is undershooting the cup holder trying to put the drink back. This can easily happen, especially while driving at a higher speed when attempting to put your drink down, causing a spill.

7. Pull to the curb to read a map or directions.

A map has such small print, it's impossible to safely read it while driving. If you are needing to find a specific address, write out the basic directions in large writing and short sentences (turn right on Jones st, left on 1st), before you drive there.
If you must read the directions (not the map) while on the road, do it where you are stopped. Once you are in the gerneral neighborhood or vicinity pull to a curb, look at the directions or map then make your way there.
One of the best ways to eliminate the distraction of looking at a map is to have a GPS system in your vehicle.

8. Find out what landmarks are near your destination before arriving.

I know when trying to find the home of one of my students, addresses are not always easy to see.
Instead of continually looking at each house, I will call my student and ask the color of their house and what it is near, etc. so I can spot it easily without my eyes off the road too much.

9. Tell your passengers you need to keep your eyes on the road.

Especially children, but any passenger might say "look at that..." while you are driving.
Your first instinct is to look at what they are talking about.
Learn to say "I can't I'm driving", it can save you from a collision.

10. Keep sun glasses within reach.

Sun glare can be a dangerous distraction that may come up unexpectedly when you turn in the direction of the sun.
Many times my sun glasses, which I don't wear unless I need them, have helped me regain my vision when I turn into the sun.
I keep them where I can reach them easily while driving
(NOT the glove box.)

11. Check rearview mirror BEFORE you enter a curve or turn.

Although it is important to know what is behind you while driving, it is very critical to keep your eyes on the road ahead, especially on tight curves, because it's much easier to loose control when turning the steering wheel and head in a direction you didn't intend.

12. Keep both hands on the steering wheel in a curve or turn.

Don't reach for anything while turning the steering wheel and driving.
You need both hands on the wheel to safely make your turn with the most control of your vehicle.
Distracted driving while in a turn is much more dangerous than while driving on a straight road.

13. Use restraints for your pet when you drive with them in the car.

Dogs, cats, and any other pet you might travel with are unpredictable. They can cause a crash by distracting the driver. Even if your pet is not the cause of a collision, they can be seriously injured, or injure you as any flying object would,traveling at a high speed toward you.

Also if your small pet is on your lap when you crash, that airbag will crush your pet against you and the airbag in a collision. Using pet seat belts or an animal carrier will be the safest way for your dog or cat to travel with you while driving.

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