Technology can be helpful, but it can also be a distraction, especially in a car. Apps for music, traffic, maps, social media, email and texting can make it difficult to resist the urge to interact with your smartphone while driving.
In 2014, 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, says Distraction.gov. The percentage of drivers visibly manipulating hand-held devices while driving was 2.2 percent in 2014, representing an estimated 300,000 drivers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). And when it comes to in-car smartphone use, Distraction.gov says, “Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.”
Drivers can avoid texting and other distractions, but what are they legally required to do, or not do, when it comes to distracted driving?
14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers, and of the four remaining states, two prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and one restricts school bus drivers from texting. You can find a full listing of distracted driving laws by state here.
It’s also important to understand that your drivers are particularly at risk when it comes to distracted driving. For drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, ten percent were reported as distracted at the time of the accident — representing the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes, says the NHTSA. In addition, drivers in their 20s are 27 percent of distracted drivers and 38 percent of those distracted drivers using cell phones in fatal crashes. Drivers under 25 are up to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or e-mails while driving, says Distraction.gov.
Regardless of age, distracted driving remains a focus of safety education campaigns, and both drivers and passengers can take steps to help limit distractions while on the road.
Originally published May 2011