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How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. In Colorado, there is a ban on all cell phone use (hands free included) for all novice drivers (younger than 18 years old) and a ban on texting for all drivers no matter if you are in a car, semi truck, or any other commercial vehicle.


There are three main types of driving distractions:

1. Manual (taking your hands off the wheel)

2. Visual (taking your eyes off the road)

3. Cognitive (taking your mind off driving)

All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. When you are driving, there are many things that demand your attention. Some you may not even consider distractions. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting and cell phone usage
  • Distracted by a passenger(s) in the vehicle, including talking to or looking at the passenger(s). Young children are four times more distracting than adults and infants are eight times more distracting.
  • Distracted by moving objects in the vehicle, including dropped objects, moving pet, insects or shifting cargo
  • Adjusting vehicle controls such as the air conditioner or heater
  • Adjusting the radio, CD’s
  • Adjusting windows, door locks, review mirror, steering wheel, adjusting seat belts, etc.
  • Distracted by devices, including radar detectors, navigation systems, portable CD/DVD players, cigarette lighter
  • Reading, including maps
  • Distractions outside the vehicle, such as animals on the road, objects/obstructions on roadway, construction, previous accident
  • Eating or drinking
  • Smoking or any activity related to smoking
  • Inattention or lost in thought, the driver is thinking about work or family issues, or daydreaming
  • Grooming and personal hygiene, such as applying make-up, shaving, combing/brushing their hair

Text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, and therefore is one of the most dangerous of distractions. In fact, a AAA Foundation study concludes that cell phone usage while driving, quadruples you risk of being in a car crash.


  • 40% of all American teens say      they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger
  • The under 20 age group has the greatest proportion of distracted drivers. 16 percent of all drivers younger than twenty years of age involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.
  • In 2010, 3092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • 18% of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • In the month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009. (CTIA)
  • 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)
  • Sending or receiving a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If you are driving at 55 MPH, that’s like driving an entire football field while blindfolded (VTTI)



A study conducted by the University of Utah examined relative impairment associated with utilizing a cellular telephone while driving. The purpose of this research was to provide a direct comparison of the driving performance of a cell phone driver and a drunk driver in a controlled laboratory setting.

They used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell phone drivers with drivers who were intoxicated from ethanol (i.e., blood alcohol concentration at 0.08% weight/volume)

The study found when drivers were talking on either a handheld or hands-free cell phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not talking on a cell phone. In contrast, when drivers were intoxicated they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking. In conclusion, the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.


A study at Carnegie Mellon University has shown that engaging in a secondary task, such as talking on a cell phone, disrupts driving performance by 37 percent. The findings show that language comprehension performed concurrently with driving draws mental resources away from the driving and produces deterioration in driving performance, even when it does not require holding or dialing a phone.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash caused by a distracted driver, contact the Denver distracted driver attorneys at the Bendinelli Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation.