What is Distracted Driving?

CELL PHONES COME TO MIND when most people think about distracted driving. Actually, distracted driving is any activity that takes a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.

Distractions are everywhere. Driving involves constant and complex coordination between your mind and body. Events or things that prevent you from operating your car safely are distractions. Driving is a skill that requires your full attention to safely control your vehicle and respond to events happening on the roads.

There are three types of distractions and they are anything that takes your:

  • Eyes off the road (visual)
  • Mind off the road (cognitive)
  • Hands off the steering wheel (manual)

Distractions include eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, steering with legs and no hands on the wheel, watching a video or adjusting a radio or CD player.

But because text messaging requires the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention, it is by far the most alarming distraction. Sending or receiving a text takes the driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55mph – of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.

All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety.

Who Dies in Distracted Driving Crashes?

Distracted driving contributes to an average of 152 deaths in Washington State each year. Distracted driving is involved in over 25% of all traffic deaths.

Between 2004 and 2008, nearly 90% of distracted driving involved deaths were vehicle drivers and their passengers; another 9.8% were pedestrians.

Person Type   Deaths  Percentage
 Driver  493  65.0%
 Passenger  180  23.7%
 Pedestrian  74  9.8%
 Pedalcyclist  8  1.1%
 Other Non-motorist  3  0.4%


 758  100%

More than 25% of distracted driving deaths were between 16 and 25 years. Persons over age 70 represented 14.2% of distracted driving deaths.

Washington State Takes A Stand

Washington State's law on distracted driving:

  • Handheld ban for all drivers (primary)
  • Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all novice drivers (primary)
  • Ban on texting for all drivers (primary)

Click here to view distracted driving laws by state.

Washington State also has a Strategic Highway Safety Plan called "Target Zero", whose goal is to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by the year 2030. Distracted driver behavior ranks within the top two Target Zero priority areas.

Take The Pledge

The fight to end distracted driving starts with you. Make the commitment to drive phone-free today.

Distracted driving kills and injures thousands of people each year. I pledge to:

  • Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.
  • Be a good passenger and speak out if the driver in my car is distracted.
  • Encourage my friends and family to drive phone-free.

Reinforce Good Driving Habits

East Pierce Fire & Rescue encourages you to practice, and teach your children, safe driving habits. Here are a few tips to help eliminate distractions while on the road:

  • Always buckle up.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
  • Park your cell phone before driving.
  • Allow voice mail to handle your calls and return them at your convenience.
  • Pull off the road to a safe area or ask a passenger to make or take a call for you.
  • Use a hands-free device if available.
  • Avoid eating while driving.
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