What is distracted driving? Simply put, distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from driving a motor vehicle. There are four types of distracted driving:
• Visual, looking at anything other than the road;
• Auditory, hearing something not related to driving;
• Manual, manipulating something other than the steering wheel;
• Cognitive, thinking about something other than driving.
These four types are broken down even further such as using vehicle gadgets, adjusting the radio or heater knobs, passengers, daydreaming, cell phone and texting and the ever popular rubbernecking while driving past an accident scene or other roadside attraction.
Using your cell phone while driving by holding it in your hand, texting or talking or even thinking about the conversation you are having while driving hands-free is a distraction. Having conversations with passengers and listening to music are distracting to some, as well as eating and drinking. If you stop to think about it, anything you do while driving other than concentrating 100% on the road can be distracting.
Every distraction you could possibly think of has caused a crash at some point. Crashes caused from distracted driving have caused upward of $129 billion in property damage and harm, nationwide. The cost from these crashes continues to rise and affect all citizens, not just drivers.
Nationwide, in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. A fatal crash that could have easily been avoided by just focusing on the road, paying attention and driving affects all of us. Maybe you know of someone or are related to someone that was the victim of a distracted driver. Distracted driving accounts for 15% of all societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes₃, this is something that we as a society have control over and could actually do something about.
Nevada Revised Statutes 484B.165 is the law that prohibits drivers from using cell phones while driving is pretty specific. If a person is caught texting while driving or talking on the phone while driving, they may face a traffic ticket. Simply put, you cannot:
• Engage in non-voice communications on a cell phone or hand-held device, such as texting;
• Engage in voice communications (unless you can do it without using your hands).
Of course there are exceptions such as:
• Emergency personnel (performing their duties);
• Public Employees (performing their duties);
• Federal Communications Commission (conducting emergency drills);
• A citizen reporting an emergency.
Most emergency responders will agree they would rather not use another communication device while driving as it gets pretty busy inside of an emergency vehicle anyway. Distractions are everywhere for all of us, and we must all focus on the task at hand, simply driving the vehicle.
From January 2020 through February 2021, the Carson City Sheriff’s Office issued 279 citations for first offense cell phone use while driving; these citations are mostly drivers that were observed on their cell phones while driving. All of these could have been avoided had the drivers just put the phone down. Some of these caused a crash some did not; the bottom line is the inherent danger to the public.
Texting is the most alarming of the distractions as it could take your eyes off the road for up to 5 seconds while reading a text message and at 55 mph that’s driving more than a football field with your eyes off the roadway, 403 feet actually.
We can all play a part in the fight to save lives by ending distracted driving. Teens can be the best messengers with their peers, so, say something, and speak up if you see a friend driving while distracted. Become involved, share messages on social media that remind friends, family, and neighbors not to make this deadly choice to drive distracted. Parents can lead by example, be responsible, show others how to be responsible and have a talk with their own young drivers about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Be that example for your kids and their friends.
Teachers and employers play a part as well. Spread the word at your school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving. Talk about it, a simple conversation on the topic may keep someone from being involved in a crash.
All of us can be a voice in our community, be that example, support local laws and show others how to be responsible, speak up at community meetings, and use your social media to support these efforts.
The Carson City Sheriffs Office remains dedicated to bringing the number of fatalities on our roadways to zero through increasing public awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as distracted driving. More information about safe driving and the state’s Zero Fatalities goal is available online at www.ZeroFatalitiesNV.com.