Getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road is one of the greatest joys that come with turning 16. Whether you’re out running errands or heading out for a road trip, driving provides a great sense of freedom, but with that freedom comes great responsibility.

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Getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road is one of the greatest joys that come with turning 16. Whether you’re out running errands or heading out for a road trip, driving provides a great sense of freedom, but with that freedom comes great responsibility. Drivers have a duty and an obligation not to operate a vehicle while distracted or to avoid intentionally driving recklessly.

When most people think of distractions while driving, the first thing that comes to mind is texting and driving. But there are far more distractions than just texting that can impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely, especially among teens. Below, we’ll go over the types of distracted driving, texting and driving, and some of the repercussions of driving while distracted.

Types of Distracted Driving

The CDC has highlighted three key types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Some distractions can fall into more than one category, making them even more dangerous. In fact, distractions while driving led to 3,142 deaths in 2019.

Visual Distraction

Visual driving distractions involve anything that takes your eyes off the road. Some examples of visually distracted driving are changing the radio station, looking for something in your car, using your GPS, looking at street signs and billboards, texting and emailing, adjusting temperature control in your car, or looking through a playlist. When your eyes aren’t on the road, you can’t see what’s coming up ahead — and you can swerve off of the road, too.

Manual Distraction

Manual distractions while driving refer to anything that takes your hands off the wheel while the vehicle is moving. Some examples of manual distractions are eating and drinking, adjusting the radio, smoking, reaching for things in your car, using a cell phone, or using your GPS. When you take your hands off the wheel, you no longer have complete control over your car.

Cognitive Distraction

Cognitive distraction is when your mind is elsewhere while driving. When you’re cognitively distracted, you’re no longer paying full attention to the road in front of you, and that can directly lead to an accident. Some examples of cognitive distractions are talking with your passengers, talking on the phone, daydreaming, thinking about a project at work or school, rehashing an argument you just had, extreme emotions like happiness or anger, and road rage. Everyone gets cognitively distracted at some point or another, but it’s important to always remain mentally focused on the road.

Texting and Driving

Texting involves all three types of distractions. A recent study on teens driving and texting showed that:

  • Ninety-four percent of teens know that texting and driving is dangerous.
  • But 35% of teens still do it anyway.
  • Eleven teens are killed in car accidents every day due to texting and driving.
  • One in every four vehicle accidents is caused by motorists distracted by texting.
  • Sixteen- to 24-year-olds have the highest cell phone usage while driving.
  • High school students who reported that they text while driving are also more likely to engage in other unsafe driving practices, such as drinking while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, or getting in a car with a driver who’s been drinking.

Distracted Driving and Oklahoma Law

Many states, including Oklahoma, are cracking down on distracted driving. Distracted driving is prohibited by 47 OK Stat. §47-11-901b, and “The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015,” which was named for and enacted after two troopers were hit and killed by a distracted driver.  

The law and act require drivers to “devote their full time and attention to such driving,” and it’s also considered a primary offense. This means that if an officer witnesses a driver holding a cell phone while driving, subject to an emergency exemption, the driver can be pulled over. The officer doesn’t need to witness any other offense occurring, such as failing to signal or running a red light; appearing to be using your phone while driving is enough to get pulled over and fined $100. The best way to avoid an accident and fines? Don’t text and drive.

Accidents do happen, and sometimes they’re unavoidable. But remaining present while driving is one of the foremost ways to prevent an accident and to prevent injury — or even death. There is no greater joy as a teen than finally getting your license, but remember: Driving is a privilege. To keep that privilege and protect yourself and others, don’t text and drive and minimize distractions while driving.

If you have been in an accident caused by a distracted driver — or just need additional guidance about your priorities after a traumatic incident — contact us today.

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