Why Do Motorists Continue to Engage in Distracted Driving?  

Distracted Driving

Despite the fact that it is widely known that distracted driving is dangerous and is one of the top causes of serious car wrecks in the United States, people continue to talk on the phone, read or send text messages, adjust the radio or navigation system, and engage in other behaviors that take their attention away from the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, 3,142 people sustained fatal personal injury in distracted driving accidents, and thousands more were seriously injured. Many of these accidents can be avoided if motorists keep their attention focused on the road and avoid common distractions while driving. If a motorist is injured in a car wreck that is caused by a distracted driver, he or she is urged to contact an experienced accident lawyer as soon as possible.


What are the Different Types of Distracted Driving?


Oftentimes, when people think of distracted driving, they think about texting or talking on the phone while driving. However, there are several different types of distractions that can take a driver’s attention away from the road. The different types of distracted driving include the following:

  • Visual distractions: This occurs when the driver is looking at something other than the road ahead.
  • Auditory distractions: This occurs when the motorist is listening to something that is not related to driving.
  • Manual distractions: These are distractions that cause the driver to manipulate something besides the wheel.
  • Cognitive distractions: These occur when the driver is thinking about something other than the road ahead and the other vehicles in the vicinity.


What are the Most Common Causes of Distracted Driving?


There are a wide range of things that can distract a driver’s attention away from the road. However, when a motorist is behind the wheel of a car, he or she has a responsibility to focus on the road ahead and follow the rules of the road. When motorists do not take this seriously and engage in distracted driving behaviors, they can cause very serious car wrecks that result in severe injuries and fatalities. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of distracted driving accidents:

  • Texting and talking on the phone: This behavior is by far the most common cause of distracted driving accidents. In fact, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), over 25 percent of all distracted driving car accidents involve cell phones. Inexperienced teen drivers are particularly likely to use their phones to talk or text while driving. Sending or reading a text takes an average of five seconds. When driving at a speed of 55 mph, this is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
  • Setting up the GPS navigation system: GPS navigation systems make it very easy for motorists to reach their destinations without getting lost. However, motorists must first set up the system, enter the address, and pay attention to the directions, all of which takes the driver’s attention off the road. Motorists should set up the navigation system before the trip and turn the system’s volume up so that he or she can listen to the directions rather than having to continuously look at the screen.
  • Adjusting the music: Whether changing the radio station, adjusting the volume, or choosing a podcast, these take the driver’s attention away from the road, even if he or she is only distracted for a mere couple of seconds. A moment of distraction is all it takes to cause a serious accident.
  • Interacting with other passengers: Whether the driver is trying to discipline small children in the back seat or chat with a friend who is in the passenger seat, this can cause the driver to take their attention off the road. Motorists should avoid interacting with other passengers in the vehicle if it distracts their attention from driving. If small children need the driver’s attention, the motorist should pull over to a safe spot rather than try to address the child’s needs while driving.
  • Eating and drinking: The simple act of reaching for a drink or looking away from the road for a moment to take a bite of a sandwich can cause the driver to become distracted.
  • Daydreaming: Sometimes, motorists simply get lost in their own thoughts, particularly if they are on a long trip. If a driver starts to zone out, he or she may become distracted and cause a serious car wreck.


What is the Science Behind Distracted Driving?


According to the NSC, drivers who are distracted by their cell phones look at but fail to see close to 50 percent of the images in their driving environment. The human brain is unable to effectively perform more than one complex cognitive task at one time. That means that a driver cannot fully focus on the road if he or she is sending a text or talking on the phone. There have been a number of surveys conducted that address the dangers of distracted driving, and the exact numbers vary based on the specific study. However, it is clear that cell phone use is a particularly dangerous form of distracted driving.


One of the factors that may contribute to the number of people who continue to use electronic devices while they are driving is the fact that so many people misunderstand what constitutes distracted driving. For example, according to a study by AAA, hands-free devices are not safer than hand-held phones. In addition, drivers who are talking on their phone while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a car wreck. Drunk drivers have the same odds of being involved in an accident. Despite knowing the dangers of distracted driving, and the fact that close to 95 percent of drivers support a ban on texting while driving, 75 percent of drivers continue to text while driving.


Some studies suggest that texting and posting on social media release a small amount of dopamine in the person’s brain. Even this small chemical change can impair judgment and override the driver’s ability to use common sense and make the responsible decision to avoid texting or talking on the phone while driving. Studies also suggest that drivers often overestimate their ability to multitask while driving. Although most drivers think they can safely operate a motor vehicle while performing another activity such as talking on the phone, only about three percent of the population can do so.


What are the Consequences of Distracted Driving?


It should come as no surprise that distracted driving is one of the top causes of car accidents in the United States. However, what people may not realize is the consequences that distracted driving has on the other motorists who are sharing the road with distracted drivers. The following statistics indicate the impact that distracted driving has, and the consequences of a distracted brain:

  • Motorists who use their cell phones while driving are four times as likely to be in a car wreck.
  • Approximately 25 percent of car accidents involve cell phone use.
  • According to the NSC, roughly 25 percent of car wrecks involve talking on a hands-free or hand-held phone. Even hands-free phones cause cognitive distractions.
  • Motorists who text while driving are up to 23 times more likely to cause a car accident.
  • Distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.


What Should Motorists Do to Avoid Distracted Driving?


Fortunately, most distracted driving accidents are preventable if motorists avoid the common distractions and keep their attention focused on the road. The following safety tips can help drivers take proactive steps to stay focused and prevent distracted driving accidents:


  • Pay attention to the road, and to the other vehicles, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians in the vicinity.
  • Avoid common distractions such as texting, talking on the phone, or reaching for something in the back seat.
  • Put the phone somewhere out of reach while driving. Keep the ringer on Do Not Disturb mode while driving.
  • If it is absolutely necessary that the motorist makes a phone call or sends a text, he or she should pull over to a parking lot or safe place to send the call or text.
  • Motorists can create a voicemail message that tells callers that they are driving and that they will return the call when it is safe to do so.
  • Download apps that are meant to prevent texting and driving.
  • If there is another passenger in the vehicle, the driver should ask him or her to manage the phone and return any texts that may be important.
  • Make any important phone calls before hitting the road. Review the route and adjust the GPS and the radio before starting the trip.
  • Model safe driving behavior at all times, particularly when children are in the vehicle. Teen drivers will model their parents’ driving habits, so if parents talk on the phone or text while driving, their teens are more likely to model that behavior.


Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Justice for Victims of Distracted Driving Car Accidents


If you were injured in a car wreck involving another motorist who was driving while distracted, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.


Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.