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What makes texting while driving so risky?

Any distraction that takes your mind off the task of driving can be dangerous. According to AAA, distracted driving results in over 3,000 deaths every year. To put it another way, distraction is a factor in one out of every 10 driving deaths in the United States. Ever since cell phones became popular, law enforcement and ordinary citizens alike have had concerns about their potential for distraction when used while driving. With the rise of texting, the concerns have only increased.

Texting on a cell phone is not the only driving distraction you may encounter on the road. However, it is one of the most dangerous because it distracts you in three different ways at once.

Manual distraction

A task tangential to driving that takes your hands off the wheel is a manual distraction. When a driver holds a cell phone while behind the wheel, the phone occupies one hand, making steering more difficult.

Visual distraction

An event or task that takes your eyes off the road, whether inside or outside the vehicle, is a visual distraction. An example of a visual driving distraction occurs when you look down at your phone to read or write a text. The risk of a crash doubles when a driver looks away from the road for more than two seconds. During those few seconds, a driver could hit someone else or run off the road.

Mental distraction

A mental distraction is anything that takes your mind off the task of driving. A driver thinking about text messages may not pay sufficient attention to the road.

Despite marketing touting less distraction, research shows that hands-free cell phone use is not safer than using a handheld device. Hands-free systems may eliminate manual and visual distractions, but the mental distraction is still there. Avoiding cell phone use while driving not only helps prevent you from causing a distracted driving accident, but it also allows you to remain alert to the behaviors of other drivers and possibly prevent a collision.