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Distracted Driving: Which Activities Pose the Greatest Risk?

While San Diego drivers should always devote their full attention to the road, not all distractions are created equal. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examined what types of activities pose the greatest risk behind the wheel.

The AAA study specifically looked at “mental distraction” or the tendency for our minds to wander from the task at hand. Researchers had drivers complete eight different tasks in three different scenarios: not driving, driving behind a simulator, and driving on a residential streets. During each scenario, the researchers assessed the drivers’ mental workload, reaction time, and accuracy. Here’s what they found:

  • Listening to the radio: Simply listening to the radio without changing the station posed a minimal distraction.
  • Listening to a recorded book: While slightly higher than listening to the radio, listening to a book on tape also resulted in minimal distraction.
  • Talking to a passenger: Even without turning their heads to talk to passengers, engaging in conversation was still moderately distracting for drivers.
  • Cell phone use: Talking on a cell phone, whether handheld or hands free, creates a moderate risk of distraction.
  • Speech to text: Systems that allow drivers to send texts and emails using speech are significantly distracting and pose the highest risk of distraction.

In 2011 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes. Whether it is texting behind the wheel or programming a GPS device, we encourage drivers to take steps to limit all activities that can lead to unsafe driving.