Cellphones, driver distraction and car accidents

At any given time of the day, more than 600,000 motorists use their cellphones while behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, 2,841 people lost their lives and 400,000 were injured in serious car accidents caused by distracted drivers in 2018. In order to minimize the risk of accidents caused by driver distraction, many states, including California, issued laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cellphones. 

While some drivers continue to use hand-held cellphones despite the ban, others use hands-free cellphones to stay in compliance with the law. Yet, studies show that even hands-free cellphones cause a significant amount of cognitive distraction, which can lead to accidents as well. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists three major types of driver distraction, including the following: 

  • Manual distractions occur when drivers take their hands off the steering wheel 
  • Visual distractions occur when drivers remove their eyes from the road 
  • Cognitive distractions occur when drivers remove their concentration from the road 

Using hand-held cellphones to text, compose emails, update social media statuses or take selfies, incorporates all three types of distractions. Engaging in these tasks is extremely dangerous as drivers take their eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel and focus off the task at hand. The CDC reports that at least nine people die and 1,000 are injured every day in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers. 

It is critical that drivers avoid all distractions and focus solely on the road while behind the wheel. Not only does this include putting down their cellphones, but also avoid tasks, such as manipulating the navigation system, turning radio stations, engaging with passengers in the car and eating while driving.