Driving Distractions Study

Driving Distractions Study

From CA Department of Motor Vehicles

Distractions Are Everywhere

Driving is a skill that requires your full attention to safely control your vehicle and respond to events happening on the roads around you. Driving involves constant and complex coordination between your mind and body. Events or things that prevent you from operating your car safely are distractions. There are 3 types of distractions and they are anything that takes your:

  • Eyes off the road (visual).
  • Mind off the road (cognitive).
  • Hands off the steering wheel (manual).

When you think about the actions you make in your vehicle, other than just driving, you can see that they often involve more than one type of distraction. For instance, if you change your radio station, you take a hand off the steering wheel to press a button and take your eyes off the road to look at what button you want to press.


Driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle collisions and near collisions. According to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 80 percent of collisions and 65 percent of near collisions involve some form of driver distraction. The distraction occurred within 3 seconds before the vehicle crash!

According to the NHTSA and VTTI study, the principal actions that cause distracted driving and lead to vehicle collision are:

  • Using electronic devices.
  • Reaching for an object inside the vehicle.
  • Looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle.
  • Eating.
  • Applying cosmetics (makeup).

Drivers who engage more frequently in distracted driving are more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash or near collision.

Cell phone use is part of everyday life that many times we do not realize when, where, and how often we are utilizing our “cellular phones.” Cell phone use while driving has increased significantly within the last few years.

Studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers engaged in cell phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle collisions and near collisions attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Make and finish your cell phone calls or texts before you start your vehicle and drive. If your phone rings while you are driving, let your voice mail pick up the call and ignore text messages. If you must respond, pull over to a safe location and park before using your cell phone.

Drivers under 18 years old may not use any type of hand-held or hands-free wireless phone while driving.

Effective January 1, 2017, it is illegal to drive while holding and using an electronic wireless communications device, unless the device is mounted on the windshield similar to a Global Positioning System (GPS) device, or is mounted or attached to, a vehicle’s dashboard or center console as long as it does not hinder the view of the road. The driver may use a feature or function with the motion of a single swipe or touch. This does not apply to manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in a vehicle.

New Technology

Your vehicle may be equipped with various new technologies that allows you to have cell phone conversations or play music from an electronic device in hands-free mode. Manufacturers are trying to make your driving experience more convenient by surrounding vehicles with technology. With the increase of such technologies, it is important to remain aware of the road and avoid distractions. With any technology in your vehicle, ensure you learn about its functions and how to properly use it without adding distractions to your driving experience.



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