What should Texans know about distracted driving?

Distracted driving often involves using a cellphone. However, people can be distracted by anything that takes their attention off the task of driving.

Distracted driving has been at the forefront of traffic safety education for the past few years. With the prevalence of smartphones and other handheld electronic devices, many drivers in Texas and other states have been paying more attention to their gadgets than the road. The result has been countless tragedies that could have been prevented if drivers would simply put their devices down while behind the wheel.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving costs the lives of approximately 5,000 people in the United States each year. In fact, driver distraction is responsible for 16 percent of all fatal car crashes. Electronic devices contribute to a large portion of accidents, but distracted driving can involve much more than being preoccupied by a gadget. Drivers may be distracted by food, drinks, other passengers, the radio and objects or scenery outside the vehicle. They might get into an accident while putting on makeup, reading, using a GPS system or watching a video instead of watching the road.

Since cellphone use plays a significant part in distracted driving accidents, many states have passed legislation regulating the use of a phone or electronic device while driving. Texas is no exception. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, all drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a wireless device while driving. Electronic device use is banned for all drivers in school zones. Many cities throughout Texas have banned cellphone use behind the wheel for all ages.

Driver distraction takes different forms

There are three main types of driver distraction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Respectively, they take a driver's eyes, hands or feet and mind off of driving. For example, eating a burger could be a manual distraction, as well as reaching over to pick up a water bottle that has fallen on the floor. Cognitive distractions can include arguing with children in the vehicle, daydreaming or being preoccupied with something upsetting.

Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction. When using a cellphone behind the wheel, drivers look at the screen instead of the road, remove their hands from the steering wheel and have their minds focused on reading and sending texts.

Preventing accidents

It is important for drivers to make a commitment to avoid distraction. Just as important is the example parents set for their children before they are old enough to drive. When parents put down their devices and pay attention to the road, their children may observe and learn these habits. Once teenagers have obtained their learner's permits, parents may wish to set rules and consequences for driving behavior.

It is not possible to prevent other drivers on the road from being distracted, but the habits that Waco residents learn may reduce their chances of being injured. Those who were involved in an accident caused by another driver may wish to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about pursuing compensation.