According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013, 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving is defined as any activity which could divert an individual’s attention away from their primary task of driving. These can include cell phone use, texting, grooming, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, or adjusting the car stereo. Of all distractions, NHTSA finds texting to be the most insidious, because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, when all of the driver’s attention should be on the road.
Laws regarding distracted driving vary from state to state. The state of Virginia has a ban on all cell phone use, both handheld and hands-free for school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18. It has also banned texting while driving for all drivers.
However, this does not necessarily mean that those drivers legally allowed to use hands-free devices to talk on their phone while driving are driving safely. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), these hands-free devices often give drivers a false sense of security. They estimate that 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use, including cell phone use with a hands-free device. The NHC states that the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening and/or talking on a phone, and this can cause drivers to miss seeing up to 50 percent of what is going on around them! The NHC is diligently working to make sure drivers know and practice what they call the three essential requirements for driving: 1) Keep your eyes on the road. 2) Keep your hands on the wheel. 3) Keep your mind on driving. Your safest option is to not use your cell phone at all while driving a motor vehicle.