Distracted Driving, Part 2: Causes and Effects of Distracted Driving

Jun 11, 2019 | Driving Safety

Multitasking is an inescapable fact of modern life; we grab lunch on the fly, check emails and text messages while teleconferencing, glance at the news while shopping online. But when it comes to operating a motor vehicle, not focusing on the most important task at hand can be disastrous. Every year thousands of fatal traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving.

In the first part of our three-part series, we discussed the ways in which texting while driving slows response time and increases the risk of a crash — a risk so great that driver texting is now prohibited by law in all but two states. But dangerous as it is, texting is only one of many distracted behaviors that can lead to a serious accident.

Here’s a rundown on some of the more common factors involved in “distraction-affected” crashes, along with some tips for prevention.

Types of Distraction While Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.”

In part one of our three-part series, we discussed the three general types of driving distractions:

Visual distraction: taking your eyes off the road

Manual distraction: taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive distraction: taking your mind off of driving

These include being engrossed in a conversation (or argument) with a passenger, fiddling with climate controls or an audio system, studying navigational devices, being distracted by the demands of eating or smoking while driving, or anything else that takes your eyes off the road for more than a moment.

The diversion doesn’t have to take up much time to be deadly; in five seconds, a car proceeding at 70 miles per hour can cover more than 600 feet, the length of an average city block.

Cell Phone Distraction While Driving

As cell phones have gotten smarter, their role in distracted driving accidents has greatly increased.

Texting is only one manifestation of the problem; dialing, talking, checking voicemail, or hunting for the phone while driving are other common distractions.

The legislation in many states regarding cell phone use while driving tends to assume that using a Bluetooth device is safer than holding the phone to your ear because it keeps your hands on the wheel; but some studies indicate that hands-free use can still impair driving ability, as drivers become absorbed in conversation and pay less attention to the “outside” world.

At least one analysis of fatal crash data has sought to rank various forms of distraction by how often they occur. The analysis relies on police judgment as to what occurred and may not be taking all factors into account, but it’s revealing just the same.

  • In 62 percent of the distracted-driving crashes reported, police believed that the driver was “generally distracted” — that is, lost in thought or daydreaming.
  • Cell phone use was determined to be a factor in 12 percent of the crashes.
  • Distractions outside the car (“rubbernecking”) accounted for 7 percent, followed by talking to or otherwise being distracted by a passenger (5 percent).
  • Another 7 percent were blamed on eating, drinking or smoking; adjusting mirrors, climate controls, or other devices; or a pet or insect inside the car.

Are Some Drivers More Likely to Be Distracted Than Others?

Age does appear to be a factor in distracted driving.

The data on distraction-affected fatal crashes indicates a disproportionate number of the distracted are drivers under the age of 30. In particular, the 15- to 19-year-old age group has the largest proportion of drivers within each respective age group who were distracted.

Unfortunately, the numbers don’t improve significantly with drivers in their twenties, especially in cases where cell phones were involved.

Statistically, drivers under the age of 30 were involved in less than a third of all fatal crashes in 2016, but that same age group comprises approximately half of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes.

Tips for Avoiding Distracted Driving

1. Take a few moments in your driveway or parking space to prepare for your trip before you pull into traffic. Adjust mirrors, seats, climate settings, GPS, and radio, and buckle up, so you can focus on driving once you’re underway.

2. Makeup, neckties, and other grooming should be done before you even get in the car. Seriously.

3. Make sure everything is in its proper place, including pets, small children, or loose objects that otherwise may divert your attention from the road.

4. Avoid turning your car into a rolling cafeteria. Avoid messy takeout orders and huge drinks.

5. Put your cell phone away. If a call is too important to miss, it’s best to pull over so you can give it your undivided attention.

6. If something else intrudes in the course of your journey that requires action on your part, pull over to deal with it.

7. If you see another vehicle moving erratically or exhibiting other signs of a distracted driver, make an immediate report to authorities. But pull over to do it.


For more than thirty years the car accident attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 720-372-2824 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.