Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A.

Distracted driving is more than texting

You tell your children not to text and drive. You mention it every time either one of them, both teens, decides to leave the house. They roll their eyes, but you keep saying it.

You also resolve never to do it yourself. You don't even check your messages at stoplights, as many people do. Often, you turn the phone off until you get to your destination. You've heard about the dangers of distracted driving, and you never want to feel distracted behind the wheel.

Are you doing enough?

Certainly, everything listed above is good. It's helpful. It keeps you and others in Florida that much safer. But it may not be enough, because distracted driving goes far beyond texting alone.

Anything but driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps it relatively simple, defining distracted driving as anything at all that you do behind the wheel other than merely driving your car. Examples that they list include:

  • Putting a new destination into the GPS or changing the destination that was already entered. It's safe to use a GPS that you programmed before the trip began, but it's dangerous to fiddle with it while driving.
  • Changing the radio station. This could include modern upgrades, like changing the station on a satellite radio or choosing a new playlist on a phone that is linked with wireless technology.
  • Talking on the phone. Many people assume that talking is safe even though texting is dangerous, but this is not the case.
  • Drinking while driving; this starts with alcoholic beverages, but even non-alcoholic drinks like a morning cup of coffee can be dangerous since they're a distraction.
  • Eating and driving. This is very common with millions of commuters and plenty of fast food drive-thru options, but it's a big risk.
  • Interacting with passengers. This can take many forms. As an adult, you may turn around to scold your children. When your kids are driving, they may turn to joke and talk with friends. Some people even take videos and selfies in the car while driving. Any interaction is a risk.

Above all, the NHTSA does point to texting as a focus area, calling it the "most alarming distraction." However, it's important to remember that it's not the only distraction. It may have made the roads more dangerous in some ways -- 391,000 people got hurt in car accidents with distracted drivers in 2015, for instance, and 3,477 died -- but many distractions existed long before smartphones.

After an injury

You clearly have a grasp on distracted driving, and you're trying to pass it on to your kids. That's a great place to begin, but not everyone has this outlook. If you or your kids get hurt by a distracted driver, you must know what options you have.

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