Top 10 Deadliest Driving Distractions & How To Avoid Them

Distracted driving involves any action that takes a motorist’s attention away from the primary task. It includes diverting the driver’s eyes from the road, disrupting mental focus on the task of operating a motor vehicle or taking hands off the wheel.

More than 3,100 people died in car collisions caused by distracted driving in a recent year, according to Forbes. To put this in perspective, this means that approximately 8 to 9% of all fatal crashes involve at least one distracted driver.

Most efforts to curb distracted driving focus on restricting the use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices while driving. Motorists who use handheld devices are four times more likely to be injured in serious crashes, leading nearly a dozen states to ban the use of cell phones and four others to crack down on texting while driving.

10 Leading Causes of Distracted Driving for People Behind the Wheel

A graph that shows the data of Engaging in Distracting Activities While Driving - 2023 Update.

Graphic by: Hardison & Cochran. Data Source: Travelers Insurance


Many distracted drivers are simply daydreaming and inattentive to changing traffic conditions. When drivers are lost in thought, they experience cognitive distraction and may not recognize and react to hazards in time to avoid an accident.

Cell Phone Use

Using a cell phone, dialing the phone, talking or listening to another person, or sending text messages all pose a driving distraction.

Outside Person or Event

Distracted drivers may be rubbernecking or distracted by a person on the sidewalk, a billboard, or a nearby event, such as a police traffic stop or car accident.

Other Occupants

Talking to passengers in a vehicle is distracting. Teen drivers may have their attention diverted by the antics of friends while joyriding. A mother may be distracted by two children misbehaving in the back seat.

Using or Reaching for a Device in a Vehicle

Whether the driver is using a navigational device such as a GPS or reaching for an item such as stereo headphones, the result is distracted driving.

Eating or Drinking

Trying to juggle food while driving is a manual and visual distraction. It requires drivers to take their hands off the wheel to handle food or a beverage and take their eyes off the road periodically. Peeling back the wrapper on a hamburger or reaching for a cold drink are distractions.

Changing Audio or Climate Controls

Reaching to change the radio station or adjust the sound can cause distracted driving.

Switching Vehicle Devices or Controls

Don’t look away from the road to adjust rear-view mirrors or seats.

Moving Objects Inside the Car

Some drivers get distracted by an unsecured cat or dog.


Getting a cigarette or vape out of the pack, lighting up, or trying to flick the ashes into an ashtray.

Travelers Insurance conducted a study regarding the leading causes of driver distraction. Technology was the primary cause of distraction among drivers across all age groups. Most drivers who participated in the study reported engaging in distracting activities while driving:

  • 57% admitted to using a phone or other handheld communication device
  • 27% took pictures while driving
  • 80% spoke on the phone
  • 28% updated their socials

Employers reported that more than 30% of their workers driving for business purposes were involved in car crashes because they were using a phone.

Other results from the survey include:

  • Stress is a big contributor to distracted driving, with more than 75% of drivers reporting work-related stress behind the wheel.
  • Drowsy driving accounted for 62% of distracted driving incidents.
  • 37% of workers admitted having taken work-related calls while driving. estimates that at any given time of the day, some 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices.

The wide majority of distracted drivers, however, simply aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, according to the observations of law enforcement.

Distracted Driving Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina law specifies what is considered unlawful use of a phone or other electronic communication device and when using electronics while driving is permitted.

Drivers 18 and older may talk on a cell phone while driving but not send text messages. Drivers under 18 are prohibited by North Carolina law from using a cell phone while driving.

Law enforcement officers can stop a driver simply for appearing to be texting and driving and cite you if you are actually doing so.

The law makes illegal the following activities while driving:

  • Reading a text or email on a communication device
  • Sending a text or email
  • Manually entering text into a cell phone to communicate with someone

The law lists four exceptions to the state’s texting and driving prohibitions:

  • If you are lawfully stopped or parked, you can text on your phone
  • You are using voice-operated technology
  • If the driver is a first responder (police, EMS, firefighter) using technology in the course of their job
  • You are using a factory-installed or after-market GPS

Distracted Driving Insurance Ramifications in NC

The North Carolina Department of Insurance shares some startling statistics about the impact of distracted driving on auto insurance:

  • One of the leading causes of car wrecks is distracted driving
  • Distracted drivers caused more than 54,000 accidents annually
  • Distracted drivers cause 23,000 injuries and more than 150 deaths annually in North Carolina, according to the NC Department of Insurance
  • Reading a text takes a driver’s attention off the road for approximately five seconds. If you’re traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field.
  • In the last decade, auto insurance policy premiums have increased by 16%, which is mostly due to the increase in distracted driving collisions.

Higher insurance payments aren’t the only consequences if you choose to take your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.

Distracted driving is considered negligent driving, meaning that you are demonstrating a marked disregard for the safety of others on the road. If you aren’t paying attention to the road and cause a wreck or hit a pedestrian, you could be held financially liable for any injuries the other party suffers. 

If you cause an accident, anyone injured in the accident could file a lawsuit against you, suing you for the cost of their medical care, any wages they lost because they had to miss work due to their injuries, or the cost of repairing their car. 

Defending yourself in a North Carolina car accident suit can be costly, and if the injured driver’s NC car accident attorney can prove that you were distracted or breaking the state’s texting and driving laws, then there’s a good chance a judge will find you responsible for the crash.

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The North Carolina Department of Insurance offers incentives for drivers to practice safe driving and follow the state’s statutes prohibiting distracted driving. Dangerous drivers who violate the law accumulate points on their driver’s license. The North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) issues insurance points based on the activities distracted drivers were engaged in that led to a vehicle accident, such as texting and driving, driving under the influence, or speeding. 

How To Avoid Driving Distractions?

What is the definition of distracted driving?

Distracted driving is engaging in any activity that takes your focus, hands, or eyes away from the road, the other vehicles on it, and the task of driving. This includes both physical and cognitive distractions.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) offers these safe driving tips to help you learn how to avoid distracted driving:

Infographic that shows the Top 6 Suggestions to Avoid Driving Suggestions.

  • Avoid eating while driving. Not only is it messy, but you need to remove one or both hands from the wheel to eat, which means you’re physically distracted. The time it takes for you to consider whether you should drop your sandwich to take evasive measures in an emergency can delay your reaction time enough to cause a collision.
  • Set your listening preferences while parked. Consider a preprogrammed playlist or queue up your podcast before driving. Make sure to keep the volume low enough so you can hear car horns or emergency sirens in time to move out of the way.
  • No texting and driving. Not only is it illegal, but it also means that your mind isn’t fully on the road. Learn how to use your hands-free options if you must communicate while driving.
  • Don’t put on make-up while driving. Grooming should be done at home rather than in the car. If you have to fix your hair or make-up, shave, or adjust your tie, wait until you’re at a stop light.
  • Secure your pet in a carrier. Animals can be distracting. They could jump on your lap or stick a paw through the steering wheel, interfering with your control of the vehicle.
  • Teach children how to be good passengers. Bickering in the car can be distracting, so teach your child the importance of riding quietly so as not to distract a driver.

Do You Need Help After Being Struck by a Distracted Driver?

Distracted drivers pose a threat to others on the road. Injuries from a distracted driving accident can be life-changing, leaving you permanently disabled and unable to work. We can help. Contact Hardison & Cochran today for a free consultation with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney.

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About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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