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JAMA Patient Page
October 27, 2015

Distracted Driving

JAMA. 2015;314(16):1768. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.13350

Distracted driving is driving without full attention to road conditions.

Distracted driving can have disastrous consequences. In the last 10 years, there has been a significant increase in deaths related to motor vehicle crashes as a result of distracted driving.

Causes of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is caused by

  • Taking your eyes off the road, mirror, and speedometer for tasks other than driving

  • Taking your hands off the steering wheel for tasks other than driving

  • Not being fully focused on the task of driving.

Examples of distracted driving are using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, and changing the radio station. Talking on a handheld cell phone and text messaging are especially dangerous because these actions combine all 3 types of distraction.

Dangers of Talking and Texting While Driving

In 2012, 421 000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. About 1 in 5 car crashes caused by distracted driving involves a driver using a cell phone. This number is even higher with teenaged drivers. Distracted driving is a serious public health hazard, and lawmakers in many states are taking action to limit cell phone use while driving.

Save Driving Habits

  • Avoid all cell phone tasks while driving.

  • Do not program GPS devices or use portable music or video players or computers while driving.

  • Ask a passenger to handle telephone calls and text messages for you.

  • Set a safe example for teens by not using a cell phone or other mobile devices while driving.

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For More Information

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The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
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Article Information

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

Sources: World Health Organization

Coben JH, Motao Z. Keeping an eye on distracted driving. JAMA. 2013;309(9):877-878.

Llerena LE, Aronow KV, Macleod J, et al. An evidenced-based review: distracted driver. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2015;78(1):147-152.

Topic: Public Safety