In the past few years, distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of vehicular accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, distracted driving led to over 3,100 deaths in 2020. So what are states doing to help make the roads safer? Here's a look at how states are fighting back against distracted driving.
What Types of Distractions Are There While Driving?
Dedicating your full attention to driving is critical. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing. Actions that seem trivial can take your eyes off the road for a few seconds, which could have dire consequences. Here are the three main types of driving distractions.
Taking your hands off the wheel, like when you eat a snack or change the radio station
Taking your eyes off the road, like when you look down to send a text or search in your backseat for something
Taking your mind off driving, like when you get lost in thought or get emotionally upset
Who Is Most Susceptible to Distracted Driving?
Out of all age groups who can operate a vehicle, teen and young adult drivers are the most distracted of all drivers. They are more likely to be distracted by their cell phone while driving. According to the CDC, 25% of fatal crashes that involved young adults (20-29 years old) were a result of distracted driving. In another study, 39% of surveyed high school students admitted texting or e-mailing while driving for over 30 days.
What Laws Are in Place to Prevent Distracted Driving?
Cell phone use is the most common distraction states are facing. In addition to vehicles adding convenience measures, like hands-free Bluetooth technology, states are also cracking down on distracted driving. The Governor's Highway Safety Association compiled a state-by-state breakdown of distracted driving laws. Here is a summarized breakdown of enforcement across the country.
24 states have laws in place to prohibit the use of handheld cellphones while vehicles are in motion.
37 states, including Washington D.C., prohibit cellphone use by novice drivers.
23 states, including Washington D.C., prohibit cellphone use by school bus drivers.
All states and U.S.-owned territories except Missouri and Montana, ban text messaging for all drivers.
All of the above laws are considered primary offenses. A primary offense enables officers to cite a driver without any additional traffic offense. Punishment for distracted driving can widely vary. Here are a few examples of what some states are doing if you are cited for distracted driving.
Alabama - $25 fine
Alaska - $10,000 fine and possible jail time
California - $20 fine
Indiana - Up to $500 fine
Utah - $100 and possible jail time
Wisconson - $20-$400 fine
Additional Efforts to Curb Distracted Driving
In addition to laws put in place, states have also used other methods to reduce cell phone use and distracted driving. Advertisements, news/social media push, and targeted enforcement have been used to increase the effectiveness.
One example is NHTSA's "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." campaign. It is intended to help remind drivers about the consequences of distracted driving. Throughout the month of April 2022, the initiative will target motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors such as talking on hand-held cell phones and sending text messages while driving.
In the past, similar campaigns have been put in place for texting and driving prevention. Another common campaign has been the Stop Texts Stop Wrecks initiative, which shows drivers that no matter how “safely” they think they can engage in distracted driving, the behavior is always dangerous — for every driver, all the time.
How Can I Prevent Distracted Driving?
Reducing multitasking, utilizing hands-free features, and even using dedicated phone apps can help limit distractions on the road. If you're driving with a passenger, you can also consider having them assist with tasks that use your phone.
In addition to these safety measures, consider enrolling in I Drive Safely's defensive driving course. These flexible courses offer vital defensive driving skills as well as tips to prevent distracted driving.