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CDC Injury Center: Director's View Blog

The purpose of this blog is to foster public discussion about injury and violence prevention and response and gain perspectives of those we serve.

Driving Demands Our Full Attention

Categories: Motor Vehicle Safety

When we drive, we join the community of drivers on the road. We rely on each other to follow laws and pay attention. We trust that everyone on the road with us is a dependable member of our community.

Yet we’re busy individuals who feel pressed to multi-task even when we’re on the road. We talk on the phone, study GPS screens, read emails on our PDAs, fiddle with our music systems, and eat lunch as we drive. We live in a demanding world, and we try to get as much done as we can during our limited time.

Sometimes the community pays a high price for that.

Our Injury Center data show that, in 2005, motor vehicle traffic fatalities accounted for 37 percent of unintentional fatal injuries – more than 43,600 deaths. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that nearly 80 percent of crashes involve some form of driver distraction. Clearly, paying full attention while we’re driving can save lives and reduce non-fatal injuries.

That’s why we commend the National Safety Council for its call for a nationwide ban of all cell phone use while driving. Notably, the NSC makes no distinction between using hand-held and hands-free devices. Studies show that driver distraction is not created by where your hands are, but by where your head is. Although there are activities that may be more dangerous while driving, cell phone use occurs more frequently and lasts longer than other distracting behaviors.

We can prevent crashes and the resulting deaths and life-altering injuries caused by driver distraction. When we get behind the wheel, we must give our full attention and focus to driving. We owe that to ourselves and everyone on the road with us. It’s a matter of trust.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. February 5, 2009 at 11:36 am ET  -   Shelley Sides

    Although I agree with you in regards to wanting to prevent injuries, I think there are many variables to think about. I also agree that driving while texting and hitting numbers for calling purposes should not be allowed, there are many other injurious behaviors that can be just as distracting. Applying make up, reading the paper, reading the map, blowing your nose, etc. these are all behaviors that can cause distractions but that would never be issued as against the law. Each driver needs to understand that it is not a right, it is a granted privilege to get behind the wheel and with that privilege comes the responsibility of ensuring safe practices. While you may argue that hands free use of cell phones can be distracting, radio music or no background noise or activity at all can allow other distractions including daydreaming and falling asleep behaviors. I believe that the law should be focused on ensuring proper driving techniques to include two hands on the wheel at all times and eyes on the road for safe practice and teaching people the risks of such behaviors.

    In addition, regulating these practices if a law is put into place will be very difficult and will likely increase the stress already felt by law enforcement agencies give the current economic status and loss of jobs already. I am all for injury prevention and I think we need to make a statement and provide guidelines for safer practices but on the other hand, I think we need to be realistic.

    Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the blog.

    2 eyes and 2 hands: You can never be 2 safe.

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  2. February 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm ET  -   Shannon Dorsey

    Anne Shaffer just sent me your post on this blog, I can’t say how much I agree with this! I’m in Seattle now, and bike commute, and the competing tasks while other’s are driving scare me A LOT. A guy was killed yesterday, on his commute, due to a guy making a u-turn in the street…not sure if a cell phone was involved, but paying better attention I am sure could have prevented the death.
    Just wanted to say hello and support this post!


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  3. April 2, 2009 at 12:06 am ET  -   Jesse Wallace

    Very insightful post. I think it’s amazing that people are reading emails and texting while driving. The amount of concentration it takes to fully process information on your pda, or phone in way of text is insurmountable, it almost takes your full undivided attention, meanwhile things outside the automobile are happening at full speed outside the vehicle. The amount of danger this potentially invokes is un-surmountable. I think we all need to think more about this topic and become more self aware and deffinately need to get young drivers to give it some serious thought as well.

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  4. October 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm ET  -   Vannessa

    Thanks for the blog, very useful information for drivers on the road. We are now in Fall and this means Going Back to school time and I must also add that besides those yellow buses, we must also outline that 300,000 high school students went back to school in California alone and out of those, 42% drive to school. Driving teenagers with cool cellphones creates a HUGE hazard. We must instruct our teenagers to drive safetly and perhaps send them to defensive driving schools to make sure they stay safe while behind-the-wheel and also protect pedestrians around them.


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  5. October 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm ET  -   Trevor Parker

    I feel that people consider driving a right, instead of a privilege, which may factor into why people decide to multi-task when driving. Driving does take full attention, and I really think if people focused more, there would be less accidents. There are countless times I see people driving while looking at their phone. I’ve actually had to scold a few friends while in their car and tell them I did not feel comfortable if they were going to e-mail while behind the wheel. It’s an unsafe practice and I’m glad the NSC put out a nation wide ban of all cell phone use while driving.

    I honestly think paying attention is understanding when your car is having problems. Driving on the road with an unsafe vehicle is not only dangerous to yourself but to others as well. People should pay attention more to the condition of their vehicle, in particular tires. I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure better tire maintenance and overall auto-maintenance would reduce causalities.

    Pay attention people and don’t take driving for granted. Protect yourself and others by focusing, obeying rules, and maintaining your vehicle!

    Thanks for the post.

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