Healthy Living: Distracted Driving 

By: Dr. Jonathon Woods

We’ve heard it before and we will hear it again:  distracted driving is “driving under the influence” and cell phone use has rapidly become THE #1 culprit.  You can change this !!!



Up to 90% of all car crashes are caused by driver error

At any moment, 9% of people driving are talking on cell phones

An estimated 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use

2 out of 3 drivers report talking on their cell phone as least once in the past 30 days.  1 in 3 report doing so “fairly often” or “regularly”.



Most car crashes are caused by car malfunctions

NO – car malfunctions constitute a small percentage, likely less than 10%

Driver error is far and away the most common cause of car crashes

Drivers can multitask

NO – multiple studies point to the inability of the human brain to truly “multitask”.  Instead of simultaneously doing 2 thinking tasks, the brain more typically switches back and forth between the tasks, invariably leaving one task with considerably less attention.

Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car

NO – numerous studies have demonstrated that drivers talking on cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions

NO – interestingly, extra adult passengers offer an “extra set of eyes” and have been shown to help keep drivers alert to oncoming traffic problems.

NO – these adult passengers also modulate their conversation in response to changing driving conditions, something that a person on the other end of a phone conversation cannot possibly do.

Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving

NO – the brain activity area that processes moving images is up to 1/3 less active when listening to or talking on a phone

NO – talking on any kind of cell phone results in “inattention blindness” where the drivers field of view is reduced by up to 50%!

Drivers talking on cell phones still have a quicker reaction time than those who are driving under the influence of alcohol.\

NO – drivers using cell phones have slower reaction times than drivers with a 0.08 blood alcohol content (the legal intoxication limit)

The main difference:  drivers talking on cell phones can immediately eliminate their risk by hanging up the phone!  (not the case for drunk drivers…)


The Essential Trio requirements for driving:

1. Eyes on the road   2. Hands on the wheel   3. Mind on driving


For more information:

National Safety Council website on distracted driving

National Transportation Safety Board slide presentation on the impact of hands-free cell phone use

Interesting related video:  Vintage 1953 NSC training film on distracted driving