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Distracted Driving Awareness

No one knows better than the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute the extent of driving distraction as the cause of crashes. Driver distraction is a major contributing factor to crashes, which are a leading cause of death for the US population under 35 years of age. The top distractions are:

  • Driver inattention, due to fatigue
  • Texting while driving, particularly by inexperienced drivers

Driving is a visual task and non-driving activities that draw the driver's eyes away from the roadway (such as texting, dialing, and use of a laptop or dispatching device to perform complex tasks) should always be avoided.

Naturalistic driving studies, such as the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2), Naturalistic Teen Driving Study, Canada Naturalistic Driving Study, and Supervised Practice Driving Study, have shown that text messaging using a cell phone is associated with the highest risk of all sources of distraction. The Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations study found that texting while driving raises a driver's crash risk by 23 times.

Texting is not the only distraction to be a cause for concern; many other activities can take a driver's eyes and attention off of the road. VTTI research has determined that the following secondary tasks drivers engage in can put them at higher risk for crashes or near crashes:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Personal grooming
  • Talking to passengers (newly licensed teens have a little higher risk while adults are safer drivers engaging in this activity)
  • Reading
  • Watching a video
  • Browsing the internet
  • Adjusting the radio or climate controls
  • Talking on the phone (hands-free does not increase risk)
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Meet the Experts

Rich Hanowski

Rich Hanowski

Division of Freight, Transit, & Heavy Vehicle Safety
Charlie Klauer

Charlie Klauer

Division of Vehicle, Driver, & System Safety
Eddy Llaneras

Eddy Llaneras

Division of Vehicle, Driver, & System Safety