Phones a huge distraction, and it’s killing us

Phones are a dangerous distraction, and that’s just part of the story. GPS, radio knobs — anything that lures your eyes off the road is a threat.

The advent of the smart phone has brought with it a deluge of texting and other distractive behavior while driving a vehicle. This is no longer confined to the young and restless – we see people of all ages, genders and backgrounds using phones when they should be driving.


Some startling figures:

These numbers are most likely higher as drivers involved in accidents may be reluctant to admit to driving distracted.


While all of the following are common distractions behind the wheel, text messaging is by far the most alarming. It requires significant visual, manual and cognitive focus from the driver – three key things a driver needs to drive safely.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Reaching for something
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps and navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player or other controls in a vehicle

As important as it is for us to make an effort not to drive distracted, we also need to be aware that others around us – drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians – may be distracted. While you may be able to quickly discern when pedestrians or cyclists are focused on their phones, some behaviors that may tip you off to a distracted driver include:

  • Drifting around in the lane or not staying within lane lines
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Braking abruptly
  • Going slower than surrounding traffic
  • Driving faster, then slower again in an erratic pattern
  • Failing to respond to street directional signs and signal lights
  • Following too closely

Finally, distracted driving issues can be compounded by fatigue. More and more our daily demands seem to be impinging on our ability to get required sleep. Sleepiness, without fail, results in cognitive and behavioral changes that can contribute to vehicle crashes, poor work performance, accidents and other long-term physical and mental health consequences. Precise counts of crashes caused by drowsy driving are not yet possible.

Be aware of your own distractions, those who are distracted around you and the impact of driving while fatigued.

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3 Responses to “Phones a huge distraction, and it’s killing us”

  1. alan bewley

    As a truck driver for 2 decades, I think that I have seen it all, but I continually see a significant increase in texting use. From my high vantage point, I can see inside vehicles day & night. This behavior is on the rise and it is very disturbing. In another lifetime, I was in the communications industry. We had a much simpliar and safer life without these electronic distractions.

  2. Albert Gloer

    This is a decidedly HUGE problem – but it’s also everybody’s dirty-little-secret. Most everyone knows or suspects how bad it is to use hand held or portable devices while driving – but almost everyone seems to be doing it. I have personally been in a car, as a passenger, driving with people while they were texting, checking e-mails and trying to use navigational devices while driving. Age, gender; education, and driving experience seem to have no bearing on an individual’s awareness. People just can’t seem to help themselves. Even in the face of death and serious fines – they still drive and text and talk. The best thing to do is probably interlock these devices so they can’t be used once a vehicle is moving. Removing the human element is likely the only thing that will reduce accidents.

  3. Bob Branson

    I could not agree more with Bert Gloer – we have become “addicted” in the truest sense of the word , even tho it is a mental addiction. Just as some reach for a cigarette without thinking when talking on the phone, so do we grab the Smartphone when driving and especially when waiting at a stopsign or light. Boredom creeps in quickly in a turbocharged IT world, and even quicker if you are under 30.

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