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Distracted Driving: What’s the Big Deal?

Distracted Driving: What’s the Big Deal?

But this message is urgent! I have to answer it now.

But I’m good at multitasking! I can take this call and still drive safely.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds.

Don’t think that’s too much? Then consider this: If you’re traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.

And far too often it’s a mistake with deadly consequences. The CDC estimates that 9 Americans die every day because of distracted driving. More than 3,000 lives were lost in distracted driving crashes in 2017, the most recent year for which information has been reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

As of March 2019, 16 states and the District of Columbia ban talking on a handheld phone while driving, and 47 states ban texting and driving for all drivers. Missouri only bans texting and driving for “novice” drivers ages 21 and younger.

No matter how old you are, how long you’ve been driving or how good you think you are at “juggling” responsibilities, when you get behind the wheel your full attention must be on the road.

This Is Your Brain on Multitasking

Distracted driving includes any activity that takes your attention off of driving, and even hands-free devices offer only a false sense of security.

A neuroscientist from Carnegie Mellon University used fMRI technology to observe brain activity in participants who engaged in a driving simulation while listening to someone speaking to them, as when using a hands-free phone. Results showed 37% less activity in parts of the brain used for driving. Participants were more likely to weave and commit other dangerous driving errors.

The CDC recognizes three main categories of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

That means all of the following examples “count” as distracted driving:

  • Talking on the phone, handheld or hands-free
  • Sending or receiving text messages
  • Applying cosmetics or fixing your hair
  • Reading a map or other printed content
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or navigation system

The Bottom Line — Let It Wait

Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that distracted driving significantly increases the likelihood of having been involved in a crash in the past 12 months.

The NHTSA offers the following advice to reduce distracted driving crashes:

  • Teens: Use peer pressure in a positive way and decide that it’s “uncool” to use a phone while driving, and remind parents not to drive distracted either.
  • Parents: Model good behavior and remind teens about the responsibilities that come with driving. If your kids see you using your phone while driving, they will think it’s okay for them too.  
  • Educators: Teach students about the dangers of distracted driving. Encourage teens to sign a pledge to never use the phone while driving.
  • Employers: Discourage employees from talking or texting while driving. Let it go to voicemail and reply when you get to your destination. If it’s urgent, find a safe place to pull over, stop the car and resume driving only after the call or text is completed.


At Eng & Woods, our car accident attorneys understand that distracted driving is one of the most reckless decisions a motorist can make.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident resulting from distracted driving, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll fight to hold the responsible driver accountable and recover the compensation you deserve.

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    1000 West Nifong Boulevard, Building 7
    Suite 201
    Columbia, Missouri 65203
    Phone: 573-874-4190
    Fax: 573-874-4192
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