Car Accidents and Driver Distraction: Cell Phones, Texting and Driving Close to Home

By Insurance.com Posted : 06/05/2009

If you are heading to the grocery store a couple blocks away - buckle up and put down the phone. Statistics show that driver distraction- engaging in activities that take your concentration away from the road - is one of the main causes of accidents for drivers 18 to 34. In fact, 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver distraction, according to a 2005 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

An earlier study by Progressive Insurance showed 77 percent of policyholders involved in an accident were less than 15 miles from home - and more than half were less than five miles from home. High-accident intersections are particularly dangerous - and most cities have a few. If you happen to live in an accident-prone area, insurers will assume your accident risk is higher and charge you accordingly.

You can reduce the risk of accident by avoiding these typical driver distractions:

Cognitive - Lost in thought? Talking on a cell - even hands-free? Then you're not paying attention to the road. Even though you're looking straight ahead, you may not really see what's in front of you. Fatigue can often lead to this type of distraction. If you find yourself spacing out, consider pulling over, getting out of the car for a bit, and refocusing on driving.

Visual - Just leave your copy of -The Cars Greatest Hits" under the passenger seat. Digging for a CD or flipping through a playlist are considered visual distractions. Any task that takes more than a couple seconds to do contributes to a great chance of accident. Taking your eyes off the road to dial a number or text? Not good, either.

Auditory - Hear that siren? Or the horn of the driver trying to warn you that he is out of control and about to careen into your car? No? Then your radio is too loud, you're paying too much attention to your hands-free cell phone or the kids' DVD player is blaring. Loud, consistent noises inside your car can contribute to driver distraction as well. Turn them off or turn them down.

Biomechanical - Need to adjust the seat or your mirrors? Do these things before you are in motion. If you try to adjust a sideview mirror while you're driving, that means you're not looking at the road in front of you. It's a good idea to plug in your car charger before you start driving, too.

It goes without saying that texting or browsing the web on a smartphone or laptop are out of the question. They hit all four of these categories, making them particularly dangerous. That's why so many places have banned cell phone use during driving. It's simply a safety issue.

Is My Cell Phone Usage Banned?

Six states and the U.S. capital have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. In all but Utah and Washington, D.C., drivers can be ticketed for using cell phones: California, Connecticut, D.C., New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington. And, in other states, some individual cities have bans.

In 18 states and the U.S. capital, young drivers are either banned or restricted from using cell phones: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Texting with is banned in 13 states and the U.S. capital: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Connecticut, D.C., Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

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