The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study showing significant evidence that distracted driving is an epidemic causing more serious traffic accidents among teen drivers than previously known – playing a role in 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe crashes. That number is four times that of official estimates stemming from police reports.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), distracted driving describes anything that takes your attention away from the act of driving. The list of distractions isn’t limited to texting. In fact, it’s an issue that predates cell phones entirely. Beyond chatting on the phone or texting, distractions include acts as simple as having a conversation with a passenger, singing, applying make-up, reaching for an object, usinga knee to steer or even thinking about something other than driving. The CDC attributes nine deaths and more than 1,153 injuries daily to accidents involving a distracted driver.

According to EndDD.org, a website dedicated to preventing driver distraction, traffic experts divide distracted driving into three buckets: manual, visual and cognitive. Taking your hands off the wheel and away from physically managing the vehicle is a manual distraction. Anything that diverts your eyes from the road is a visual distraction and when your thoughts start to drift away from the focus of driving, that’s a cognitive distraction. EndDD.org points out that texting is particularly dangerous because it combines all three of these distractions at once.

While there’s no way to truly prevent all drivers from experiencing distractions, laws have been enacted to minimize them – and their positive effects have been evident according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. While laws vary by state, those that have enacted primary texting bans – meaning an officer does not need any other reason to pull over the driver – have proven to be most effective with drivers age 15–21, with a traffic fatality reduction of 11 percent. The largest reduction for drivers age 21–64 stems from laws prohibiting the use of cell phones without hands-free technology.

The study shows that texting bans are most effective for young drivers, while the requirement of hands-free cell phone technology is most effective for adult drivers.

Voice-activated vehicle infotainment systems, which help drivers handle their calls, texts, music and navigation hands-free, can sometimes be more of a distraction than a help. According to ChicagoTribune.com, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety measured the driver distraction and safety risks of six infotainment systems and the results highlight the importance of choosing the right system for your vehicle. The most important feature to look for in your infotainment system is that it requires simple, short commands.

It’s evident that the more limited the driver distraction, the safer the driver. Keeping this in mind every time you sit behind the wheel will help keep you and your passengers safe.

Do you have suggestions for minimizing driver distractions? Share with us in the comments below!