5 Dangerous Driving Distractions That Could Kill You

Today’s vehicles boast state-of-the-art car safety systems to protect drivers from the unexpected. Unfortunately, automakers have yet to find a way to prevent distracted driving, a common occurrence on roadways nationwide. Taking your eyes off the road, even for a second, can end in catastrophe. Teen drivers are the biggest offenders, with six out of 10 car crashes involving distracted driving.

Several common driving distractions can take your attention away from the road. Learning how to avoid these five dangerous behaviors can save not only your own life but also the lives of others.

1. Texting or talking on your phone

A young woman texts on her phone while driving, the biggest driving distraction
Texting is a major driving distraction | Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,142 people were killed in 2019, with distracted driving being the primary cause of the accidents.

The car safety agency reports that the “most alarming distraction” is texting. It claims that “sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

Driving is a task that requires your full attention. According to the NHTSA, any activity that diverts your focus can create a distraction, increasing your risk of crashing.

2. Eating and drinking

According to a Hankook survey, “The survey of 1,021 randomly selected motorists 18 and older and having a valid U.S. driver’s license showed 64% acknowledging they multitask while driving.”

More than 21 percent of the responders admitted to eating while driving. Decide to Drive explains that visual, manual, and cognitive distractions occur when drivers are focused on eating.

Instead of keeping their eyes on the road, drivers are unwrapping food packaging, holding the meal with one hand, using a napkin, applying condiments, and trying to grasp beverages. These tasks make paying attention while driving virtually impossible. 

So, the next time you decide to hit the drive-thru, eat in the parking lot or wait until you get home to dig into your meal.

3. Talking to people in your vehicle

Whether you’re driving the kids to school, taking a road trip, or giving your dog a ride to the vet, vehicle occupants can be distractions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says talking to other passengers can create a dangerous distraction while driving. Some states have even gone as far as to limit the number of passengers young drivers can have. 

The CDC reports that for drivers aged 15 to 17 years old, “fatal crashes were 21% lower when zero passengers were allowed and 7% lower when one passenger was allowed.”

4. Fiddling with the infotainment or navigation system

The latest technology has made infotainment systems valuable tools for assisting drivers. But they can also lead to risky behavior that can increase the likelihood of crashes.

It’s recommended that you set up your navigation system before hitting the gas pedal. A study conducted by AAA found that “drivers take an average of 40 seconds to fiddle around with their navigation, which, if done while moving, is 40 seconds where you are distracted.”

The problem has gotten so bad that automakers have installed lock features to prohibit infotainment system use while driving.

5. Applying makeup, shaving, or performing other personal hygiene tasks

According to Hankook, 3% of drivers are guilty of applying makeup, shaving, or taking care of personal hygiene tasks while driving.

To resist the temptation to fix your appearance while cruising down the highway, keep grooming items out of reach, plan ahead, and pull over if necessary.

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