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Avoiding Driving Distractions - Myth versus Reality

In 2018, there were 3,567 deaths on Texas roadways1.  Among the leading causes were distracted driving, driving under the influence and speeding.  Many of these incidents had more than one cause but driving while distracted is a big problem on the roadway. Being on the cell phone while driving, texting, talking or looking at something on the phone is a very dangerous activity.

Who has not seen someone driving erratically or stopped at a light and were distracted while on their cell phone? Many people think they are good multitaskers, but that is actually a myth, especially when it comes to cell phone use while driving.  

Myth versus Reality:

Myth – Drivers can multitask

Reality - The human brain cannot do two things at the same time – like watch tv and hold a phone conversation.  The same is true when driving and talking on your phone. The brain switches between the two tasks which slows reaction time and limits visual field.

Myth – Talking on a cell phone is just like speaking to a passenger 

Reality - Passengers are good for you.  Adult passengers can help the driver and alert to traffic problems.  Passengers also should recognize high hazard environments and limit conversation with the driver, whereas a person on the other end of the phone call cannot know what the driver may be experiencing.

Myth – Speaking hands-free is safe to use while driving 

Reality - Drivers talking on cell phones, even while using a hands-free device, can miss seeing up to 50% of their driving environments, including warning signs, pedestrians, red lights and other objects outside the narrowed field of vision.  Talking on the phone causes the field of vision to be greatly reduced due to cognitive requirements of the call.

Myth – I only use my phone at stop lights, so it’s OK. 

Reality – Even at stop lights, it is important to remain an attentive driver. For example, a recent AAA study shows that drivers are distracted up to 27 seconds after they finish sending a text.  A lot can happen in 27 seconds.

Myth – Voice-to-text is safe to do while driving 

Reality – It is still very distracting. You’re not only mentally distracted, but you’re visually distracted due to the common autocorrect errors.

Important Note: In 2017, Texas lawmakers passed HB 62, which made it illegal for drivers to text while driving. The law took effect September 1, 2017.