Activities more dangerous than texting while driving

distracted teen driver with passenger

Although most people may think that using your cell phone while driving is the most dangerous thing you can do, there are more dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. Car accidents didn’t start when cell phones came onto the scene. 

So, what could be more dangerous? As it turns out, the answer is any distraction. If you’ve ever wondered when to call a car accident lawyer, you’ll definitely need one when the following activities are involved. 

Simply Talking

Next time you’re dealing with a back-seat driver or having a discussion with the person in the passenger seat, remember that more than half of distracted driving accidents are caused by driver/passenger conversations. According to federal data, talking with passengers while operating a vehicle poses a much greater threat than using your cell phone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data reveals that 57% of accidents that are caused by a distracted driver are the result of driver/passenger interactions. Cell phone use, in comparison, is reported to account for 12% of distracted driver accidents. 

Objects and Passenger Actions

Focusing on other internal objects within the car accounts for another 11% of accidents. Eating a meal, applying make-up, or swatting a bug are things everyone does without usually a second thought, but engaging in any activity that takes your eyes off the road can be equally as dangerous as sending a text message while driving.

As if it’s not bad enough that talking with passengers is the cause of so many accidents, passengers can also distract the driver in many other ways. In fact, another 7% of accidents are caused by actions of passengers other than talking. Singing or dancing to music, kids fighting or spilling food in the back seat, or even someone messing with the radio are all potentially dangerous distractions.

Daily Distractions

Another 23% of distracted driver accidents are caused by everything else. The driver may be adjusting the radio, eating or drinking, smoking, moving their seat, or looking around at objects they pass. The bottom line is, cell phones are not the only, and certainly not the biggest, factor to blame on distracted driver accidents.

The Truth About Interaction vs. Phones

Why is driver and passenger interaction the cause of so many accidents? It’s not to say that passengers are dangerous, but interacting with passengers is the most common activity taking place in cars across the country. Both cell phone use and interacting with passengers account for a combined 24% of secondary activities, with driving the vehicle as the primary activity.

So, why does talking with passengers account for 57% of accidents, as opposed to 12% of accidents being caused by cell phone use? Drivers that use phones while driving also try to overcompensate by holding their phones up over the steering wheel to see the screen and the road. Many drivers only text while sitting at a red light or while sitting in traffic. 

Phone users drive on average 5 to 6 miles per hour slower when using their phones. However, few people slow down or concentrate on the road when talking with a passenger or any other activity. In fact, general inattentiveness accounts for 59% of all accidents. Drivers get so wrapped up in everything else going on, that they pay less attention to driving and make more mistakes.

Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say that tackling the problem of distracted driving, requires taking multiple and varied sources of distraction into account. Concentrating solely on cell phone usage as a problem will only cause drivers to disregard the other risk factors that cause accidents.