Distracted driving has become a costly problem in Virginia and throughout the United States. While texting and driving frequently receives all the attention as the cause of distracted driving, there are many potential distractions on the road.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks driving distractions into three main groups. Visual distractions pull the driver’s eyes away from the road and surrounding vehicles. Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the steering wheel. Cognitive distractions impair a driver’s ability to focus on the task at hand.

Texting while driving can constitute a visual, manual and cognitive distraction. Writing and sending a text takes approximately five seconds. At freeway speeds, that translates into 120 yards of driving without having one’s eyes on the road. Texting while driving often occurs among drivers under 20. For this group, the CDC has found that frequent texters also have higher rates of driving without a seatbelt, drunk driving and knowingly riding in cars with drunk drivers.  

Texting while driving is extremely dangerous, but as the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority states, “Any non-driving activity [drivers] engage in is a potential distraction and increases [a driver’s] risk of crashing.” Distracting activities include:

  • Having conversations with passengers
  • Listening to the radio and/or attempting to change channels or volume
  • Eating or drinking while driving
  • Using a navigation device

Thousands of people die each year as a result of distracted driving. Hundreds of thousands more are injured. The NHTSA states that drivers can improve the safety of roads across the US as they lead by example, putting down their cellphones and reducing other distractions in the car.