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Distracted Driving: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jul 1

Experiment: Next time you are a passenger, count how many drivers are on their phones.


A person driving while on their phone.

On July 2nd, 2015, my brother lost his life because he was texting while driving.


With my two babies in the car, we drove on the expressway in San Diego a few weeks back. Meanwhile, a woman was putting on her makeup while driving next to us. If my husband hadn’t been paying attention and performed an evasive maneuver, she would have sideswiped us while rear-ending another car.


Like most car accidents, everything happened so fast. My babies were crying and my husband and I were thankful we were all okay.


Surely, that would have shaken up the other driver. Right? Wrong! Within 5 minutes, we passed the same woman from one lane over and she was still putting on her makeup while using her knee to hold the steering wheel.


Distracted driving is an epidemic in the United States. It costs lives and puts people in extreme danger.


In this blog post, we provide data-driven insights and advice to help you break the bad habit of distracted driving.



What is distracted driving?

A common misconception is that distracted driving is exclusively texting while driving. However, this is not true!


Distracted driving includes any activity that diverts your attention to paying from the road, including:


  • Texting 

  • Eating or drinking 

  • Talking to people in your vehicle

  • Messing with the stereo or navigation system

  • Following directions on your phone 

  • Using any other handheld device



Is it illegal to text and drive in the United States?

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 48 States have banned text messaging for all drivers. The punishment depends on the State but includes fines, fees, higher car insurance payments, and the potential for a ban.


Visit the Governor's Highway Safety Association website to check the laws in your State.



How dangerous is distracted driving?

Anytime I get in the car, I see other people texting and driving. But don’t just take my word for it. 


324,652 people were injured in a motor accident due to distracted driving in 2020, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2022, 3308 people died because of distracted driving. That’s approximately 9 people every day!


This is a photo of my brother's truck after his accident.



Distracted driving includes texting and other activities that cause the driver to lose focus on the road and their surroundings.


How to break the habit 

A lot of people are addicted to their phones. But next time you pick it up while driving or even at a stop light ask first, "Can this wait?". The likely answer is "yes".


If you need to send a text or find directions, pull over when it’s safe to use your device. Better yet, prepare and message whoever you need to before your trip. 


If like the woman I mentioned earlier, you’re late and need to put on your makeup, just be late. Or do it when you’re parked. It's not worth risking your life or taking someone else's life.


You may find it helpful to keep your phone out of sight while driving. Put it in the glove compartment if you have to. If you have an iPhone you can turn on the “do not disturb” feature or the “driving feature” to mute notifications. 


Moreover, avoid multitasking at all costs. If you have a passenger, they can help you with other tasks, whether that’s changing songs, giving directions, or sending that text for you if it really can’t wait.


Lead by example

If you’re a parent, you have an excellent opportunity to lead by example by not partaking in distracted driving.


Children and teens are impressionable—if they see you texting, answering phone calls, or engaging in other distracting behavior behind the wheel, they are likely to do the same.


Call out others

This one is especially for the teens out there. If you notice a parent or a friend texting and driving or doing any other activity that is distracting, call them out. You can do it politely, but drawing attention to the problem is a start.


They may not notice what they’re doing. However, educating others and calling out distracted behavior when driving helps cut down on the problem.


Advocate for increased education around distracted driving

If you’re in a position to do so, advocating for increased education around safe and non-distracted driving at school is very beneficial.


Not only can you educate young people who are soon to start driving or have already started, but they can go home and teach their parents what they have learned.


Increasing education around a widespread problem is never a bad idea, and this rings especially true for distracted driving.



What do other countries do?

More than 30 countries worldwide have banned using a handheld device while driving, mentions the U.S. department of transportation.


In the UK, if the police suspect you’re using a mobile phone while driving, you can receive up to six points on your license and an on-the-spot fine of £200. You can also lose your license if you passed your test within the last 2 years. Distracted driving can also lead to fines, and depending on the situation, can result in you losing your driving license altogether.


Sweden focuses its attention on raising awareness of distracted driving and does not ban the use of handheld devices. Other countries such as Bermuda, impose fines as high as $500 to deter road users from using handheld devices and engaging in other distracted behavior.



Key takeaways

  • Distracted driving involves texting and other activities that distract the driver 

  • It’s a widespread issue that causes thousands of fatalities each year

  • Texting or using a handheld device while driving is banned in 48 States

  • Call out distracted driving when you see it

  • Lead by example as a parent by limiting distractions when driving

  • Put your phone in the glove compartment to avoid the temptation to use it



FAQs

What is most distracting while driving?

One of the biggest distractions while driving is texting or using a handheld device. Other top distractions include eating or drinking (non-alcohol), and reading a map or satnav.


Can you touch your phone while driving?

In many countries and States in the U.S., it’s illegal to use a handheld device while driving. Instead, pull over in a safe space if you urgently need to use a handheld or mobile device. 


Can you eat while driving?

Eating while driving, although not illegal, can be a distraction. If possible, eat before driving or pull over to eat.



Looking for more? Contact a Wellbeing Manager to discuss your organizational wellbeing needs.


 


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We provide workplace teams with mindful practices, personal and professional wellbeing growth, fitness instruction, and opportunities for social connection. We aim to inspire the highest potential in people at work, in life, every day, so they can show up healthy and at their best.

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