Distracted driving has become an epidemic in America. The rise of the mobile device has led to more drivers emailing, using social media apps, and texting behind the wheel. In 2014, motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers killed 3,179 people and injured 431,000 others. These staggering numbers showcase the need to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving – especially among younger drivers. Identifying the most common causes of distracted driving can help reduce the chances of a driver engaging in dangerous activities on the roadway.

Using a Mobile Device

Using a mobile device is the greatest cause of driver distraction on the modern roadway. At any given moment in the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using their mobile devices while driving. Sending a single, average-length text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for about five seconds. This is the equivalent of driving across a football field blindfolded. Despite these startling statistics, drivers today continue to use their phones behind the wheel to text, talk, and scroll through social media.

Younger people are more prone to using cell phones while driving than older generations. Among all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal car accidents, 10% were distracted at the time of the crash. This age group represents the largest age group involved in distracted driving crashes. Drivers in their 20s make up 27% of distracted drivers and 38% of distracted drivers using cell phones at the time of the accident. As the number of drivers using cell phones behind the wheel continues to increase, the nation can only expect to see a growth in distracted driving car accidents and fatalities.

Studies show that even hands-free talking can be distracting. Talking on a hands-free device still engages the speaker mentally, taking his or her attention away from the roadway. The human brain cannot focus on a conversation and the driving task at the same time. When a phone call takes the driver’s mind off of driving, it can delay reaction time and slow decision-making. These effects can be fatal in high-speed collisions.

Talking to Passengers

Drivers often assume that talking to passengers while driving is safe since passengers can help warn them of changing roadway situations and stop talking in dangerous circumstances. However, holding a conversation with someone in the vehicle can engage the mind enough to remove attention from the roadway. It can also invoke emotions such as anger, grief, or even intense happiness that are hazardous behind the wheel. Driving while mentally or emotionally engaged in another task (even talking to passengers) is dangerous.

Eating and Drinking

Today’s world is fast-paced and competitive, with everyone vying to be the most successful and productive American citizen. In an environment that encourages multitasking, many drivers use their daily commutes for things that they do not otherwise make time for, such as eating and drinking. Drivers may be confident that they can eat and drive at the same time, but this is a fatal oversight. Eating and drinking take the driver’s eyes and hands away from the driving task and make it impossible to react to things, such as a stopped vehicle, in time to prevent an accident.

Personal Grooming

It may become part of a worker’s routine to put on makeup, comb hair, and even brush teeth while in the car on the way to work. These time-saving habits can result in severe accidents – delaying the worker much longer than taking an extra five minutes at home. Instead of waiting until the last minute to eat, drink, answer emails, or groom oneself, a driver should dedicate his or her commute time solely to the task of driving.