Distracted driving has unfortunately become commonplace among drivers in the United States. This is dangerous behavior, and the consequences can be deadly. Fortunately, you can take a few simple steps to cut down on distractions and help make the roads safer for everyone. Here's what you need to know.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that pulls a driver's attention away from the road. However, most distractions now come from screens and include texting, checking social media, opening apps, checking GPS, and other phone-based activities.
What Is the Impact of Distracted Driving?
According to a 2022 report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents. Another 424,000 people were injured. Even worse, fatalities and injuries are likely much higher than the reported numbers, since many people hide their distracted driving from the authorities.
The Problem with Social Media
Of all the distractions, social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok might be the worst. Approximately 55% of drivers in the U.S. check social media while behind the wheel. These alarming statistics come from DriversEd.com's 2019 Distracted Driving and Social Media Report, which surveyed more than 1,000 drivers about their habits.
Passengers point out that the number of social media users behind the wheel could actually be higher. Overall, 68% of respondents said they've seen drivers checking social media while they were in the car. Even worse, 25% of people admit to recording videos while they are driving.
Who Is Driving While Distracted?
The DriversEd.com study found that women are more likely to check their phones on the road than men. Nearly 54% of women admitted to distracted driving, while only 46% of men did. Age also played a role, but perhaps not in the way you'd expect. Drivers aged 40-60 were the worst offenders, making up almost 31% of directed drivers. In second place were younger drivers: those 18-29 years old made up 28% of distracted drivers. Drivers over age 60 and between ages 31-44 were the least distracted.
The study also broke distracted driving down by region. Drivers in the southern states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama made up 19% of distracted drivers, despite the relatively low populations in these more rural areas. Drivers in densely populated New England made up just under 4% of the country's distracted drivers.
If there's a silver lining, it's that drivers know that distracted driving is wrong. According to AAA's latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 95% of drivers say that reading or typing while driving is very or extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, nearly 23% of people reported engaging in that behavior in the past month.
How to Cut Back on Distracted Driving
Smartphones and social media aren't going away. It's time to change behavior behind the wheel. Here's what you can do to keep yourself, your passengers, and other people on the roadways safe.
Drivers and Families
Everyone can and should lead by example. Start today by stowing your phone in the glove compartment, back seat, or trunk of your car while you are driving. Out of sight, out of mind is the best policy.
Parents should talk to their children and teens about the dangers of distracted driving. In addition to setting a good example by ignoring your phone in the car, be sure to discuss the consequences of distracted driving with young people.
For teens learning to drive, you can teach more specific skills. Show them how to set up "driving mode" on their phones to stop notifications when the car is in motion. You should also encourage them to keep the phone in the back seat and to speak up when they see friends texting and driving.
Workplace and Community
Since many adult drivers are distracted by work emails, make it clear that you will only check email during working hours. If you hold a position of power in your company, consider making this a company-wide expectation. You can set company policies about distracted driving and remind workers to hold each other accountable for distracted driving.
You can also get involved in your community to support laws that seek to end distracted driving. Remind friends and family about the dangers of distracted driving, and share articles and reports with statistics that will hammer home the dangers. There are many ways to speak up!
Defensive Drivers Aren't Distracted Drivers
It's never too late to brush up on your own driving skills. Check out a defensive driving course from IDriveSafely.com to enjoy insurance discounts and make sure you have the skills to keep you safe behind the wheel.