Watch Out for Driving Distractions

"Distracted driving" involves activities that take a person's attention away from the road with a visual, manual or cognitive distraction. Some of these include cell phone use, eating, talking to passengers, grooming, reading maps or changing the radio. It is estimated that 21% of injury crashes in 2008 were caused by distracted driving. This is an alarming number, and states have taken notice.

In an attempt to reduce the number of distracted drivers, several states have enacted laws limiting or banning the use of cellular phones. California, Oregon and Washington have all made using a cell phone for making phone calls or texting without using a hands free device illegal. In Oregon and California, it is a primary offense, meaning that a police officer can pull you over if you violate this law. In Washington, the offense has recently become a primary offense beginning June 10, 2010.

A recent study, published in January, 2010, found that banning cell phone use did not decrease the number of accidents in state where it had been banned.

This may be because the laws do not actually reduce use of cell phones. Or, it may be due to the fact that using a hands free device still poses a distraction. The best advice is to avoid using a cell phone at all while driving.