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:
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:
Looking away from the road during a task degrades situation awareness of potential hazards. Long glances back to the road rebuild this awareness and are thought to be critical for maintaining good vehicle control and recognizing conflicts.
There is some evidence that driver behavior may be detrimentally impacted by the use of advanced-vehicle technologies; however, more research is needed regarding the possible adverse effects of driving automation systems on driver behavior (e.g., distraction and overreliance upon the system).
Teenaged, young adult drivers and senior drivers are more adversely impacted by secondary-task engagement than middle-aged drivers. Visual-manual distractions impact drivers of all ages, whereas cognitive distraction may have a larger impact on young drivers.