Distracted driving brings to mind images of drivers engaging with their cell phones, rather than minding the road. It can be maddening to see a car floating into your lane because the driver is looking down, most likely at a cell phone, instead of watching the road. Cell phones are a relatively new cause of distracted driving. That could be why they draw so much of the attention, and ire, of people trying to prevent car accidents. According to a recent study of federal accident data, cell phones are actually responsible for only 12 percent of distracted driving crashes. A more common cause of these accidents is conversations with other passengers.
Unless you always drive alone, chances are you talk to the passengers in your vehicle. When you do, you are engaging in the activity that causes more distracted driving accidents than all other behaviors combined. Conversations with passengers are responsible for 57 percent of distracted driving crashes. The high percentage is less surprising when coupled with the fact that the behavior is incredibly common. Talking with passengers is the most common secondary activity (driving is the primary activity) engaged in by drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
People might scoff at the idea of banning drivers from talking to passengers, but at the very least it's important to be aware of the problem. Texting bans swept the nation in recent years as state after state moved to address distracted driving. None of those states passed laws against interacting with passengers. The texting laws could be taking attention away from the real issue of distraction: When driving, your attention needs to be on the safe operation of your vehicle. Whether you are texting, eating or chatting with a passenger, your mind is not where it needs to be. The result of this is all too often a car wreck.
Source: The Washington Post, "This surprising activity is more dangerous than using your phone while driving" by Jacob Bogage, 23 June 2016