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Distracted Driving: Actions and Consequences

Updated April 20, 2021 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

When we first learn how to drive, we’re told to always keep our eyes on the road and to watch out for other drivers on the road. As we become more comfortable behind the wheel after years of practice, however, our priorities and attention can shift. We think we can get away with a quick text message or briefly looking down to adjust the air conditioner. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Anything you do behind the wheel of a car that takes your mind or eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel is considered distracted driving. The distracted driving definition is any thought or action that distracts your awareness away from the road and driving.

Did you know it takes three seconds to fully shift attention back to your primary task after a distraction? It might seem short, but when traveling at high speeds or need to anticipate what others are doing on the road, those seconds are everything.

Three Types of Distracted Driving

Every day, an estimated 8 people are killed in the United States in distracted driving accidents. Distractions are prevalent in everyday life; being aware of what is considered distracted driving is the first step to avoiding distractions altogether.

Distractions fit into three main categories while driving, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention):

  1. Visual
  2. Manual
  3. Cognitive

Visual Distractions

Anything that takes your eyes off of the road is a visual distraction. This can include checking a text on your phone, looking at your GPS, and looking at a passenger while having a discussion. Keeping your eyes on the road is a crucial part of being an attentive driver.

Manual Distractions

Any activity that involves taking your hands off the steering wheel falls into the manual distraction category of distracted driving. Reaching for your phone, changing your navigation route, and eating food while driving are some examples of manual distractions.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions take your mind off driving. Concentrating on a message or notification that pinged on your phone can take your mind away from traffic conditions. Even a seemingly nonchalant daydream is enough to distract your mind from the present moment of driving.

What Is a Distracted Driver?

A distracted driver is a person who is not 100% focused while driving. A distracted driver can have active or subconscious participation in distracted driving.

What is Distracted Driving: Awareness of Distractions

Note that many of the distracted driving examples stated above can overlap with each other. For instance, texting while driving combines all three types of distracted driving: reading a text and/or your response (visual), the action of texting (hands off the wheel), and thinking of the text and response (cognitive) all account for distracted driving.

It’s important to remember that no distraction is “worse” or “better” than another. Any type of distraction puts your safety and the safety of passengers and surrounding civilians at risk.

Distracted Driving Examples

Any of these activities can count as distracted driving:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for or interacting with something in the car
  • Talking to other passengers in the car
  • Using headphones to listen to music, podcasts, books, or other media
  • Being distracted by outside surroundings
  • Adjusting your GPS
  • Personal grooming
  • Changing car controls: i.e. radio, air conditioner, etc.
  • Setting or resetting a navigation system
  • Being mentally or emotionally distracted by a stressful job, home life, etc.
  • Cell phone use—talking, texting, taking pictures, accessing the Internet, navigating, reading, watching videos, or listening to music

The Consequences of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can lead to a higher chance of a collision. When you aren’t paying attention to where you’re going or what other people are doing, reacting quickly to dangerous surroundings becomes nearly impossible.

Distracted Driving Facts

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, the consequences of distracted driving are far-reaching: over 3,000 people were killed by distracted driving in 2019, about 8.7 percent of all fatalities of that year.

Cell phones play a big part in distracted driving crashes. In the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey done by the CDC, 39 percent of high school students sent a text or email while driving at least once in a 30-day span of time. As a result of distracted driving, 9 percent of all teens who died in a car accident were killed because of distracted-driving-related crashes.

When you consider that it takes an average of five seconds to read or respond to a text message, which is enough time to travel the length of a football field (at 55 mph), it’s no wonder the risks while driving distracted is so high.

What Percent of Drivers Talk on Cell Phones?

In 2018, 3.2 percent of drivers were talking on handheld cell phones at any given moment. That is an estimated 472,486 drivers of passenger vehicles who had their phone to their ear at any given time during the day. At any given moment during the day in 2018, approximately 9.7 percent of drivers were talking on the phone from either a handheld or hands-free device.

Other Distracted Driving Consequences

There are additional potential consequences associated with distracted driving that include, but are not limited to:

  • Fines: in Indiana, you can be fined up to $500 for using your cell phone while driving
  • Driving while distracted ticket
  • Court sentences
  • Harm to self and others
  • Property damage
  • and much more

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

There are so many dangers on the road already. Why choose to add distracted driving to the list? You, your passengers, other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians rely on you to be fully engaged in driving while you’re on the road in order to protect their lives. A few seconds can change someone’s life (and yours) forever, and you can prevent it by staying focused.

Looking at the road is your most important job as a driver. Wait until it’s safe to pull over to do whatever else you may need to.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An Indianapolis car accident lawyer from WKW can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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