About 3,000 Americans lose their lives in car accidents involving a distracted driver annually. This averages nine preventable deaths a dayon the United State’s roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the most recent statistics affirm this – with 2,880 fatal crashes recorded in 2022 resulting in 3,142 fatalities.
In those 2,880 crashes, cell phones were used at the time of the crash in 396 cases. Cell phone usage—a considerable distraction—is becoming a primary or secondary offense in almost every state. Devices are not, however, the only distraction.
Then what is the cause of these accidents?
There are three main categories to consider.
Fairly self-explanatory in name, visual distractions take your eyes away from the road. This can include looking at phone notifications, reading a GPS, or even looking at the passing landscape on either side of the vehicle.
Tactics to combat visual distractions: pull over to read directions or messages and keep phones in “do not disturb” mode
Manual distractions include the items within the vehicle that could take your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, and focus off of safe driving. Typing a text, eating or drinking, or reaching out to a pet or passenger while driving are all manual distractions.
Tactics to combat visual distractions: keep your phone out of reach, make all adjustments before driving, and don’t reach for items while driving (pull over if necessary)
Like visual or manual distractions, phone usage can fall under mental distractions too. Mental distractions include any action which pulls your attention away from the road ahead, like daydreaming or road rage.
Tactics to combat visual distractions: avoid phone calls—even hands-free ones—involving big conversations and keep your emotions in check
It’s important to note these three types of distractions can affect all drivers on the road. As a defensive driver, it’s imperative to be familiar with distractions and know the signs of other vehicles that seem distracted. Create distance between you and a distracted driver when the situation arises.