When people hear the term “distracted driving” they immediately think about cell phone use and texting while driving. The truth is, distracted driving includes so much more than just texting. What exactly does it include? With 23% of all auto accidents in the United States caused by driver distraction, it is important for drivers to be aware of what distracted driving is, and how life-altering it can be.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving includes any activity that takes your attention off the road and how you are driving. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), distracted driving may include:
- Talking on a phone
- Texting or emailing
- Eating or drinking
- Applying makeup
- Programming a GPS device
- Adjusting the radio
- Watching videos
- Turning to the backseat
- Distracting passengers
Basically, anything that takes your attention to the roadway lower than 100 percent is considered a distraction. Texas law is cracking down on these behaviors. In September 2017, a new statewide law banned reading, writing, or sending text messages while driving. Law enforcement are actively looking for drivers who have their heads down, or who appear to be using a phone while driving.
How Common is Distracted Driving in Texas?
Despite many states passing laws banning cell phone use behind the wheel, distracted driving remains a leading cause of auto accidents. In 2017, there were 537,475 auto accidents on Texas roadways. Of those, a reported 100,687 accidents, or 19 percent, were caused by driver distraction. These accidents resulted in 2,889 serious injuries and 444 deaths. The number of lives affected by these accidents, injuries, and deaths extends far beyond these base statistics.
How to Avoid Distractions
Like many states, Texas has partnered with other organizations to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, and to hold Texas drivers accountable for their actions behind the wheel. TxDOT recommends drivers do the following:
- If you need to make a phone call, pull over to a safe location.
- Tell your friends, family members, and co-workers that you will not respond to texts while driving.
- Use one of the mobile apps that will send an auto-reply when someone texts you.
- Put your phone out of direct reach, or turn it off while driving.
- If you need to eat, adjust GPS, or read, pull over to a safe location.
Unfortunately, your efforts to avoid distracted driving do not impact the actions of others. Yes, using good sense and obeying the law can help reduce the risk of you causing an auto accident, but it does not eliminate the risk entirely. Be aware of other drivers around you and how they are behaving at all times. Simple awareness on your part can go a long way toward preventing an auto accident from devastating your life.