Cell phone use is the most publicized cause of driver distraction, but it is not the only one. Any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for even an instant is a driver distraction that can lead to a vehicle accident.
On January 12, 2010 Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated in a CBS news report that he was going to push for laws that enforce a total ban, in all states, on any use of cell phones while driving. Focus groups, like FocusDriven, are also pushing for laws to restrict all cell phone use while driving.
The National Safety Council reports that 1.6 million vehicle accidents, or 28% of all accidents were attributed to cell phone use at the time of the accident. This includes hands-free use, hand-held use and texting while driving. Cell phone related accidents resulted in 6,000 deaths and about 500,000 injuries.
At present only six states, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington, plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have enacted laws prohibiting hand-held use of cell phones while driving. Nineteen states prohibit texting, and some prohibit any cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18. But no state prohibits all uses of cell phones, which means that the distraction from hand-free uses still poses nearly the same accident risk as hand-held use.
This brings up the issue of other devices, such as Blackberries or iPods, computers, and even GPSs–all of which require manual data entry. Drivers should pre-program these devices, or pull off the road and program these devices while stopped in a safe place.
Another major cause of distracted driving is the CD player, and even the radio. Many drivers are distracted longer than it seems while sorting, choosing and changing CDs. And with the availability of portable or built-in DVD players the potential for distraction rises.
Busy Hands, Preoccupied Minds
Other common driver distractions include:
• Failure to fully anticipate traffic or road conditions ahead.
• Eating or drinking, particularly hot beverages.
• Talking with passengers, especially distracting for young drivers.
• Disciplining kids.
• Rear-facing infant seats.
• Applying make-up or shaving.
• Sightseeing or looking for a destination, street, or other landmark.
• DWI, including prescription medications.
Young drivers are more likely to engage in distracting activities while driving than older ones. In fact, some younger drivers intentionally seek the challenge of doing as many tasks as possible while driving. Older drivers tend to plan their tasks before starting out on a trip.