It is every driver’s duty to dedicate 100% of his or her attention to the road, 100% of the time. When a driver fails to fulfill this duty, car accidents can happen. Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was responsible for 3,166 deaths and thousands of injuries in 2017. Distracted driving awareness and education could help put an end to this significant problem.

Defining distracted driving

The definition of distracted driving is to operate a vehicle while mentally or physically engaged in another activity. Driver distraction occurs in the following three ways:

  • Visual: A visual distraction can refer to anything that removes a driver’s gaze from the roadway ahead.
  • Manual: Manual distractions make it impossible to keep both hands on the steering wheel while driving.
  • Cognitive: Cognitive, or mental, distractions take a driver’s mind away from the task at hand.

All three types of distractions compromise the driving ability. A driver who is talking, texting, emailing, chatting with passengers, eating, drinking, looking at a map or fiddling with the radio while driving could cause a serious car accident.

New York’s distracted driving laws

Like most states, New York has enacted laws specifically targeting distracted driving. New York was the very first state to prohibit the use of handheld cellphones while driving. It bans cellphone use for both talking and texting, unless the driver is using a hands-free device. Cellphones are a dangerous type of driver distraction since they meet all three types: visual, manual and cognitive.

Distracted driving can make it impossible for a driver to notice approaching hazards and react in time to avoid collisions. Distraction can increase the odds of colliding with objects, vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. If all drivers paid more attention behind the wheel, it could save thousands of lives each year.

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