Distracted Driving -- It's About More Than Texting While Driving

It's estimated that distracted driving contributes to 10% of all auto accidents. Of course, texting while driving is currently the in vogue evil that must be eliminated so that car crashes are prevented. But motor vehicle accidents happened before the invention of cell phones and continue to happen regardless of what bans or limitations states place on their use in cars and trucks. So there must be other causes of distracted driving.

Distracted drivers can cause accidents because they stop paying attention to the road, their course of travel, their speed, traffic signals, traffic conditions, and pedestrians. An immediate question in the aftermath of an accident that causes personal injury or wrongful death, whether it's a drunk driving, motorcycle, train or railroad, bicycle, or pedestrian accident, is what was the guilty driver doing immediately before the crash? Some distracted driving accidents can be particularly gruesome, resulting in fires and extended insurance claims

Studies have identified seven significant distractions that cause motor vehicle accidents:

Cell Phones And Other Handheld Devices

Ah yes, the poster child for distracted driving. Iowa has a limited handheld device ban that applies to texting while driving. But that's just one of the gazillion things that you can do with a modern smart phone. You can also be distracted and occupy a hand while you read and send e-mails, look at documents and web pages, use social media, download one of the top five currently recommended apps for this, that, or the other thing, program GPS, and on and and on. Even good old fashioned talking on the phone can be distracting, especially if you're holding the phone to your ear. The solution: Don't touch your phone while driving. You can re-tweet that witty message you just read when you stop your car. 

Eating Or Drinking While Driving

Taking your food with you and having your meal while knocking off those road miles may be convenient and save you a little time. But it can also distract you and eliminate the use of one or both hands while you're sipping your soft drink, digging in the bag for those last few french fries, or trying to wipe something you just spilled off of your clothes. Eating while driving isn't illegal in Iowa, but when doing so don't forget that your not sitting at a table somewhere.  

Adjusting Things Inside The Car

Fiddling with the climate control, seat, music, on board display, mirrors, or any of the myriad other things that modern cars and trucks come equipped with can be a distraction. Again, your eyes may be off the road momentarily, plus you're using one of your hands to adjust things.  It's better to make all necessary adjustments before beginning your trip or while stopped. While that may be easy to do for seats and mirrors, for things that require regular regular changes, like music, climate control, and other on board activity, ask a passenger (if you have one) to do that for you or use steering wheel controls, to the extent that your vehicle has them. 

Taking A Trip To Fantasy Land

Maybe you have a lot on your mind. Or your well into a lengthy road trip and your thoughts start to wander. But back in reality you're driving a car that surrounded by traffic, pedestrians, and changing road conditions. So if you sense that you're becoming a daydeam believer, play some music, listen to the radio, or stop your vehicle, take a break, stretch and walk around for a bit. 

Passengers And Pets

Passengers, especially children, can be a distraction, a point that was recently hammered home when a vehicle veered into the path of an oncoming truck and a young child died. So can pets that are loose in the vehicle. Both can move around, distract you from the road, and even interfere with vehicle operation, such as braking and steering. Therefore, for this and other obvious safety reasons, you should make sure that your passengers and pets are belted or otherwise secure in the car.

Checking Out The Scenery (Or Accidents)

This one's difficult because you can't stop your car every time you see something scenic. But don't forget that there's a road in front of and around you while you're ogling some majestic vista as your motoring along. And for Pete's sake, don't contribute to a second accident while you're driving past another one and you satisfy your morbid curiosity by focusing more on the crash than the road.


Smoking may not be as common as it used to be, and its place in the pantheon of distracted driving causes is not what it once was, but there was a time when smoking while driving was one of the top causes of distracted driving. You possibly take your eyes of the road and occupy one or both hands while reaching for a cigarette and getting it out of the pack and lighting it. You occupy a hand while holding the cigarette (unless you keep it in your mouth the whole time and never ash it). And, similar to dropping food on your clothes while driving, if an ash from the cigarette falls on your clothes your first instinct will be to look down and occupy a hand to brush off the ashes.

Harley Erbe