What Causes Driver Distraction, and How to Avoid It

by NPHM | May 11th, 2020

Distracted driving causes approximately nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries every day in the U.S. when the number of annual road deaths shot to more than 40,000 and stayed there for three straight years, many safety advocates pointed their fingers at driver distraction as one of the primary causes.

But why is distraction a bigger threat now than it was in years past? One reason is literally staring you in the face; more than 80% of Americans now own smartphones, compared to just 35% less than a decade ago. You may even be reading this on a phone right now!

It’s difficult not to pick your phone up when you get a notification, even when you’re driving, so it’s not surprising that distraction is frequently cited as a growing cause of crash-related deaths in the U.S. But is it the whole story?

Though distraction among drivers has likely increased dramatically since the advent of the smartphone, it’s important to understand that distraction has always been a threat on our roads.

What Causes Driver Distraction?

  • Mobile devices
  • Navigational systems
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Adjusting the car stereo
  • Adjusting a vehicle’s climate controls
  • Grooming
  • Passengers in the vehicle
  • Excessively loud music
  • Distractions outside the vehicle
  • Reaching for something inside the vehicle

As you can see, using a smartphone is just one of the many causes of distracted driving. Studies have shown that just the act of speaking with someone on the phone, even with a hands-free device, can delay your reaction times by up to 40 percent.

We all face several distractions when behind the wheel. Though some of these factors are beyond our control (i.e. accidents occurring outside the vehicle), most are things we can avoid if we make an effort. 

Know How Drivers Become Distracted

To understand what you should do to avoid distracted driving, you must first understand the three ways you can be distracted.

  • Visual distraction – This includes any task that would take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distraction – This includes any task that takes your hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive distraction – This includes any task that takes your mind off the task of driving.

8 Steps for Avoiding Distracted Driving

Some activities, like using a smartphone, can distract you visually, manually, and cognitively. As drivers, it’s our responsibility to give our undivided attention to the task of driving. We suggest the following eight steps to avoid distracted driving.

  1. Keep your mobile device out of your hands at all time. Your smartphone is a distraction waiting to happen. Take it out of the equation entirely by placing in a purse, the glove box, or anywhere out of reach. And preferably, with the ringer off! The text chime can be distracting even when you don’t pick it up.
  2. Enter your destination into navigational systems before you start driving. If you need directions while driving, use voice controls to tell your navigational device where you need to go.
  3. Create a “never list” of things you shouldn’t do while driving, including eating, drinking, applying make-up, fixing your hair or teeth, or changing clothing. Purge these distracting activities from your driving routine and create a habit of pulling over if you need to perform a task that requires taking a hand off the wheel.
  4. Keep your car stereo set to a reasonable volume at all times. There’s nothing wrong with listening to music or your favorite podcast while driving, but you should be able to hear noises outside your vehicle, so you can be sure you aren’t missing any sounds that alert you to dangers or approaching traffic, including police sirens you may need to make way for.
  5. Don’t tolerate loud noises or distractions from your passengers. Remember, when you’re driving, you’re in charge. Let your passengers know that distracting behaviors or sounds put everyone at risk and aren’t allowed while the car is in motion.
  6. Keep the number of passengers in your vehicle to a minimum, especially if you’re a less experienced driver. Research analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that teen drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in potentially risky behaviors when driving with a peer in their vehicle, compared to driving alone. The presence of multiple passengers increases that risk even more.
  7. Pull over if you need to reach for an object in your vehicle. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that teenagers who reach for an object while driving are seven times more likely to cause an accident than when driving normally.
  8. Avoid talking on the phone, even on a hands-free device, unless you’re in an emergency. Yes, talking is better than texting, but even speaking on a hands-free device should be avoided, if at all possible, as it can distract you from the task of driving.

This list is a great place to start, but you might have your own temptations that you want to identify. Think about what distracts you when you drive and build your own list to make sure you are eliminating the risks of distraction.

What If Another Driver Is Distracted?

Now that we’ve covered the things that you can control, let’s talk about what to do when another driver’s distraction threatens your safety. If a distracted driver injures you in a crash, you can and should consider all necessary steps to get compensation for the costs you face.

Ideally, the other driver’s insurance company would cover all the crash-related expenses you’ve encountered. Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely offer people all the money they need to pay for their damages.

This can be especially true when the cause of a crash is distraction. Even if you know that the other driver’s distraction was to blame, it might not be listed in the police report or acknowledged by insurers.

Whether you’re struggling to prove the other driver’s fault, or the insurance company isn’t giving you a fair offer, you should remember never to accept compensation that doesn’t meet your needs. Contact an attorney to make sure you have someone fighting for your rights on your side.

Need Help? Contact Nurenberg Paris to Learn More

The car accident attorneys at Nurenberg Paris know what to do after a distracted driving crash. Our team will investigate the cause of your crash to prove the other driver was at fault, and we’ll fight to get you the compensation you’re entitled to.

Whatever you do, don’t accept an offer from an insurance company without making sure it covers your damages and speaking to a lawyer first. Contact Nurenberg Paris at (216) 230-6384 to schedule a free consultation with our team.