Distraction 101

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving goes beyond texting and driving. In fact, anything that could divert your attention manually (doing something with your hands and/or feet), visually or cognitively would qualify as a distraction. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, different types of distracted driving include:

  • Reaching for your phone
  • Changing the music
  • Using an app
    • Note: There are apps that help fight against distracted driving by helping to keep you off of your phone when you're behind the wheel. Viewing your GPS or map
  • Taking a photo
  • Taking in the view
  • Checking your email or posting on social media sites.
  • Eating and drinking
  • Putting on makeup/grooming
  • Smoking
  • Looking for items on the floor of your car
  • Talking to another passenger
  • Daydreaming
  • Road rage
  • Being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

While the above instances might seem like obvious examples of what to avoid, distracted driving is still all too common in the U.S. Even if drivers look away from the road for a brief text or to grab their water bottle, the results can be deadly:

  • When you send a text message, you take your eyes off of the road for about five seconds. That is the time it takes to drive the length of a football field going 55 mph! (U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • At any given time during the day, about 660,000 drivers are handling their phone or electronic device while driving in the U.S. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  • You are three times more likely to get into a car accident when handling a mobile device (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)

In Iowa, the laws are clear: texting while driving is illegal, and any driver under the age of 18 CANNOT use a phone or other type of mobile device while operating a vehicle.

Don't Become A Statistic

There are distractions all around us. Fortunately, there are things you can do as a driver to keep yourself - and others - safe on the road.

Stay Calm

Anxiety and stress can be big distractions when driving. Take deep breaths to remain calm, cool, collected and focused on the road.

Keep the Peace

Driving is not the time to get into an argument. Save your frustrations for when you are in a safer setting.

Pull Over

If you just can't seem to keep your focus, find a safe place to pull over and take a break.

Know Your Dials

Get to know your car's controls before you start driving - especially if the car is new to you. This will help to minimize distractions if use of a control becomes necessary.

Make Adjustments Before You Start Driving

Make adjustments to your steering wheel, seat and mirrors before you hit the road.

Use Your Passengers

If you have a passenger in the car, ask them to help out with car controls like turning on the heat or AC, or changing the music.

Utilize Your Radio Presets

Most car stereos allow you to preset your favorite stations so that you only need to press one button to hear what you want.

Stay Off Your Phone

Cell phone use in any form is a huge distraction. Put your phone away and do not use it while behind the wheel.

Be Rested

Driving - especially long distances - can be tiring. Make sure you are well rested beforehand to avoid cognitive distractions.

Be Full and Satisfied

Don't forget to eat! Make sure you factor meal times into driving time to avoid eating while driving.

Set Your GPS Before You Start Driving

Make sure you put your destination into your GPS system or app before you take to the roadways.


Distracted driving comes in many forms. Avoid becoming another distracted driving statistic by following the above tips to keep your eyes on the road and stay safe behind the wheel.

Q: How many people were killed by distracted driving in 2015?

A: In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in distracted driving incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Another 391,000 were injured.

Q: As a driver, you should:

A: Fully focus on driving. Do not let anything divert your attention, actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.

Q: What can you do to prevent yourself from being distracted by loose items while you're driving?

A: Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.

Q: What are some things you can do before driving to avoid being distracted while behind the wheel?

A: Make adjustments before you get underway. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.

Q: Finish these two things before hitting the road:

A: Dressing and personal grooming.

Q: Doing this before and/or after driving can help you to avoid being distracted:

A: Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.

Q: Make sure these things are secured before you start driving:

A: Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

Q: Put these items aside while driving:

A: Put aside your electronic distractions. Don't use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

Q: What should you do if you must engage in another activity while driving?

A: If another activity demands your attention, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.

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