Last week, while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Chicago's notoriously curvy urban expressway, Lake Shore Drive, I shared the road with a driver completely engrossed in a cooking show; her phone was perched atop the dashboard ahead of the steering wheel, and she was loving every minute of it. Luckily, this isn't a common distracted driving habit, given that "watching a show or movie" didn't make the list of most common distracted-driving habits we're about to discuss — but it scared me enough to move as far away as I could.
Most of us are addicted to our devices, so it's no surprise that distracted driving accidents are on the rise. According to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, using a cellphone was a contributing factor in more than 800 crash deaths on U.S. roads during 2017.
Drivers seem to know it's a problem, too: In a 2018 national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 64 percent of respondents said that distracted driving is a much bigger problem today than it was three years before.
But devices aren't the only problem that take drivers' focus away from the roads.
"When people talk about distracted driving, most often cellphones are the focus, but drivers are distracted by other secondary behaviors more often than cellphones," David Kidd, a senior research scientist with the Highway Loss Data Institute, said in a statement. "Things as simple as drinking coffee or talking to your kids can take your attention away from the road."
Related: Stats Show Teens Are Bad Drivers; Here's How to Help Them Be Safe
In a new survey performed on Northern Virginia roads, IIHS stationed observers at 12 locations across four communities on straight stretches of roads, at roundabouts and at intersections with signals.
What do drivers typically do if they're not paying attention to driving? According to the results of the study, about 23 percent of drivers were engaged in one or more of these distracting activities:
1. Talking on hand-held cellphone
2. Manipulating hand-held cellphone (excludes looking at phone in mount)
3. Simply holding hand-held cellphone (i.e. not obviously manipulating or talking)
4. Wearing Bluetooth earpiece or headset with mic
5. Wearing headphones or earbuds
6. Manipulating in-vehicle system (touching radio, climate control, touchscreen display or other controls; excludes operating stalks or buttons on steering wheel)
7. Manipulating or holding mobile electronic device other than cellphone
8. Talking or singing
9. Eating or drinking
12. Other (reaching for object, reading, etc.)
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