South Dakota Safety Council Banner

Fact Sheets: At Home Fact Sheets: At Play Fact Sheets: At Work Fact Sheets: On the Road Fact Sheets: Whats New Fact Sheets: Search

Fact Sheet

Driving is a risky activity. Research indicates that in more than 50 percent of all crashes, driver inattention was a contributing factor.

How does distraction affect driving performance? Driver instructors estimate that a driver makes 200 decisions for every mile of driving. If you are mentally solving business or family problems while driving, you are adding to the total cognitive workload. If you take your eyes off the road for three to four seconds, at 55 mph the car travels the length of a football field. Other factors, such as fatigue, weather and traffic conditions, can increase the negative impact of distractions on driving ability.

The clues
How do you know when you are distracted? Well, how many of these things have happened to you?

A passenger in your car screamed or gasped because of something you did or did not do?

You ran a stop sign or stop light unintentionally?

You swerved suddenly to avoid an animal, a car or another highway hazard?

You slammed on your brakes because you didn't see the car in front of you stop?

You didn't remember driving from one place to another?

You drifted in your lane or into another lane of traffic?

These events are clues or signals that you are distracted while driving. Next time you decide to read a road map or a work report, referee an argument or even engage in an intense conversation on a cell phone or with occupants in the car, ask yourself ... who's driving?

The solution
Suggestions for helping you manage distractions safely:

If the newspaper, business report or day planner is too great a temptation, stick them in the trunk of the car until you arrive at your destination.

Secure everyone and everything that could be a distraction.

Don't wait until you are driving to plan your route or attend to grooming. Plan before you go. Leave a little earlier; it will get you there less stressed and more safely.

Pre-set the climate control, radio, CD player and identify the location of signals, wipers and lights in the vehicle.

Postpone complex or emotional conversations on the phone or with passengers until you arrive at your destination.

If a passenger is distracting you, pull over where it is safe and legal to do so. Don't start driving until the situation is under control.

When you are hungry or thirsty take a break.

The next time you catch yourself slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting someone—you know what to do. Recognize that you may be driving distracted. Use some common sense and help keep our roads safer for everyone.

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS)

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.