Distracted Driving: Why We Do It & How To Stop

We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, so why is it so tempting to reach for the phone the moment you hear that little ding? Just a quick glance can’t hurt, right? Wrong. 

Data from a 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that 1.6 million crashes, more than 3,100 deaths, and 400,000 injuries were caused by some form of distractions when driving in the year 2019 alone. In addition, more than one in four of all accidents—including 87 percent of rear-end collisions—are the result of some form of distracted driving. 

What feels like a quick check of your phone, flip of the radio dial, or reset of the GPS can easily result in injury or tragedy. 

Distracted Driving Facts To Remember

After years of PSAs about the dangers of being distracted when driving, it’s clear we know better than to do it—so why can’t we quit? It all stems from brain biology. 

Research has shown that 92 percent of drivers recognize the dangers of texting and driving, and support making it illegal to text behind the wheel. Nonetheless, 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe they can text and drive safely. The biological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance tricks our brains into believing that we are not subject to the same risks and dangers as everyone else. Convinced we are the exception rather than the rule, we carry on with risky behaviors while recognizing the dangers posed when others do it behind the wheel. 

In order to recognize the error in this logic, it’s important to understand what happens to our brain when we use a mobile phone. According to a behavioral health study recorded in the National Library of Medicine, talking on the phone, “our brains direct about 37 percent of our energy away from parts of brain that deal with driving resulting in “inattention blindness.” In the most basic terms, this means that you may be looking around at your environment, but you are not fully processing everything you are seeing. 

As a result of this practice, the Psychology of Learning and Motivation explains that “it’s estimated that we can miss as much as 50 percent of what is going on around us when distracted.” It’s not hard to see why this can quickly become a serious hazard when we’re navigating around pedestrians, children, pets, construction zones and other drivers—many of whom are likely distracted themselves. 

How to Prevent Being a Distracted When Driving

1. Enroll your Teen in a Training Program

Have you heard of the teenSMART® Driver Safety Program? The program teaches drivers to anticipate dangerous situations, recognize how risk changes as they drive, increase situational awareness, and expect the unexpected while behind the wheel. Studies show that teens who complete the program reduce their chances of being in a crash by up to 30 percent. As an added incentive, Central offers premium discounts to teen drivers who complete the program.

Learn More: Teenage Driver? teenSMART is the Smart Choice for Safety and Savings

2. Talk to Your Employees

Groups dedicated to changing the nature of distracted driving have worked hard to develop training materials that can be used to bridge these types of conversations with employees. This video produced by the National Safety Council, for instance, gives advice on how to coach your employees on properly and safely preparing to hit the road for work-related travels.

3. Take a Distracted Driver Course

The National Safety Council offers an interactive Online Defensive Driving Course, which is designed to motivate drivers to change their risky driving behaviors, as well as their overall attitudes about distracted driving.

4. Evaluate Your Own Behavior. 

Learn more about driver distractions and the risk you take by allowing yourself to multitask on the road by taking the official DMV Distracted Driving Quiz. 

5. Pledge to Make a Change

Join the millions of Americans who are vowing to take back their focus on the roads in this official DMV-sponsored online pledge

Driver Distraction Impact on Insurance

The safety and wellbeing of our policyholders and communities is of utmost importance to everyone at Central. Not only does raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving support safer roadways, it also helps us keep premiums low for our auto policyholders by reducing accidents and claims. From saving lives to saving money, everybody benefits. Learn more about Central Auto coverage here.

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