Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking on the phone or texting, fiddling with the stereo or navigation system, eating and drinking, or talking to people in your vehicle – anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

Taking your eyes off the road for five seconds at 55 mph is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

Driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle collisions and near collisions. According to a 2013 study (PDF) released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 80% of collisions and 65 percent of near collisions involve some form of driver distraction, typically occurring within three seconds before the crash. 

The principal actions that cause distracted driving and lead to collision are using electronic devices, reaching for an object inside the vehicle, looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle, eating and applying makeup.

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

Don’t Text and DriveDon't Text and Drive

Using a cell phone while driving creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on US roads. According to the NHTSA, in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in the US.

- Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- If you must send or receive a text message, pull over to a safe location and park your car first.
- If you have passengers, appoint a “designated texter” to handle all your texting.
- If you can’t resist the temptation to look at your phone, keep it in the trunk.

Protect yourself and everyone else on the road – don’t text and drive.

Turn down the stereo. Don't change the playlistTurn Down the Stereo

Focusing on music or changing the radio station or playlist takes concentration away from driving. If you must adjust music or your navigation system, pull over to a safe location and park your car. Avoid taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road.

- Adjust your vehicle’s controls (radio, playlist, volume, climate controls, seat, etc.) before you begin to drive.
- Take advantage of normal stops to adjust controls.
- Ask your passenger to adjust the radio, climate control, navigation system, etc. for you.

Check your volume before driving and be sure to always play music at a level that is not distracting. In California, it is illegal to wear headphones or earplugs in both ears when driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.

Don't eat and driveDon’t Eat and Drive

If you are eating in your vehicle while driving, you are focusing on your food and not on your driving. 

Not only are you eating or drinking, but are opening packages, unwrapping and re-wrapping food, reaching, leaning, spilling, wiping and cleaning yourself or your vehicle. This is a lot of distractions for one driver on one trip. You are safer when you stop to eat or drink. 

Allow yourself plenty of time to stop, rest from driving and enjoy your meal.

Hands free does not equal distraction freeHands Free Does Not Mean Distraction Free

Your vehicle may be equipped with various technologies, such as allowing you to talk on the phone or play music from an electronic device in hands-free mode. Hands free does not necessarily mean distraction free – 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.

Just because you can respond to a text hands-free doesn’t necessarily mean you should: driving safely should be your top priority and any hands-free devices that cause a distraction can wait until you are safely parked.

More Information

When driving, the condition of the road and the behavior of other drivers can change abruptly, leaving you little or no time to react. When you are driving, follow these rules:

  • Stay focused.
  • Pay attention.
  • Expect the unexpected.

Driver distractions reduce your awareness of the driving environment, your decision-making process and your driving performance. Drive safe and stay alive. 

Keep your mind on driving, your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel!

For more information on distracted driving, visit the California DMV’s Driver Distractions website