How Much Do You Know About Distracted Driving Laws?

Did you know that the number one cause of vehicle accidents is distracted drivers?  In fact, about ten percent of the time you spend driving, you are distracted.  Of course, the main source of distracted driving is cell phones, but they are not the only culprit.  

Distracted driving means that a person’s attention is diverted from the safe operation of the vehicle.  The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that distracted driving causes approximately 9 deaths each day in the U.S.  Also, according to NHTSA more than 3,142 lives were claimed due to distracted drivers in 2020.

Most people experience some sort of diversion while driving that can be cognitive, visual, or manual distractions.  Let’s explore some of the distracted driving causes in more detail.

>  Cognitive Driving Distractions

Cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving.  Have you ever arrived at a destination and realized you don’t remember getting there?  More than likely, your mind was consumed with things like:

  • A stressful day at work
  • Interacting with passengers in your car
  • Thinking about a stressful event
  • Worrying about an argument you had with someone
  • Responding to an email or text while driving

Obviously, we can’t shut off our minds entirely, but it’s a good idea to focus on getting from one place to another safely.  Try to limit distractions not only for your safety but for other individuals on the highway as well.  

>  Visual Driving Distractions

It’s easy to let your eyes wander away from the boring road ahead.  But, each time you look away, you may be putting yourself at risk of an accident.  Some of the things that are most likely to steal your attention are:

  • Checking the GPS map and directions
  • Looking at the passing scenery or wildlife
  • Turning your head to talk with someone in the back seat
  • Staring too long at a car accident 
  • Texting on your cell phone will driving

It’s almost impossible not to look away from the road from time to time.  Nevertheless, distracted driving is dangerous despite how common it may seem.

>  Manual Driving Distractions

It is impossible to multitask and drive safely at the same time.  Taking one or both hands off the wheel even for a few seconds can be deadly.  Some examples of multi-tasking that you should try to avoid while driving include:

  • Adjusting temperature controls, music stations, windows, or mirrors
  • Applying makeup
  • Reaching for something that fell 
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking
  • Using your cell phone

Using a cell phone while driving is one of the most preventable tragedies that takes thousands of lives each year.  However, strict laws are in place that seek to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers.

What Are Distracted Driving Laws and How Can They Affect You?

Despite varying traffic laws from state to state, most states have passed laws prohibiting distracted driving.  For instance, some states prohibit driving while shaving or applying makeup.  Other states have broad statutes that define distracted driving as any activity that is not necessary to operate the motor vehicle safely.  

Many states have enacted laws that relate specifically to the use of cell phones while driving.  In some states, a person can use a cell phone if they have a hands-free device or Bluetooth capability.  Other states forbid cell phone use by drivers under the age of 18, even with the hands-free function.  

Driving while texting is against the law in some states and other electronic activities that can distract a driver are also prohibited.  The activities may include emailing, playing games, or web browsing, to name a few.

What Are the Penalties for Distracted Driving?

Each state has different levels of punishment or penalties for distracted driving. Most cases are considered to be traffic offenses that are punishable by fines, incarceration, or a combination of both.  The driver is also at risk of having their license suspended and having to attend driving classes.

Some states have stricter penalties, such as Alaska, which may impose a one-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000.  The state of Idaho classifies distracted driving as a criminal offense.   You can find more information about distracted driving laws in your state by visiting the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) website.

Distracted driving can cause accidents resulting in severe injuries or death and the driver may be sued for negligence or recklessness.  Attorney’s fees may be associated with this situation, and insurance rates may be affected as well.

Protecting Yourself from Financial Hardship

Thousands of people drive without adequate insurance or with no insurance at all.  Make sure you are protected from the financial burden that can arise if you are involved in an accident with one of these drivers. 

Uninsured Motorist coverage will protect you from paying for injuries or damages caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.  So, talk to one of our experts at Sandifer Insurance Agency today.  We will be happy to assess your insurance needs and recommend an automobile insurance policy that is right for you.


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