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Understanding driver distraction and causes

The most accepted definition of distracted driving is a diversion that temporarily takes the driver's attention away from driving, such as a task, event, person or object. These diversions reduce the driver's awareness, performance and decision-making skills, increasing the risk of traffic collisions. Motorists in British Columbia might not be aware of the causes of distracted driving.

Much attention on the cause of distracted driving has been on cellphone use behind the wheel. In fact, this is what the public often associates with distracted driving. However, this is not the only cause. The use of convenience technologies has increased in passenger vehicles significantly over the last 10 years. These technologies include navigation systems, entertainment systems and multifunction controllers. Other diversions in some vehicles include talking to others in the vehicle, supervising children, grooming, eating and reading billboards.

Hands-free technologies have also become distractions. Meant to help drivers communicate with others while on the road, the coming of hands-free voice texting, for example, is just another possible source of diversion. In 2009, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study showed that 13 percent of U.S. respondents confessed to texting behind the wheel. Another study in 2010 found that 43 percent of drivers between 18 and 24 text and drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2010 that 49 percent of drivers between 21 and 24 admitted to texting and emailing on the road, while 18 percent of all the respondents confessed to doing so. Two years later, another NHTSA poll found that 69 percent of drivers in the same age range text and email while driving.

A car accident victim who is injured because another driver was texting while driving could have a case for personal injury. The victim needs to show that the driver was negligent and that the distraction led to the crash that caused the injuries.

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