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Overview

safe teen driverOur Distracted Driving Campaign is designed to bring awareness to distractions behind the wheel, and educate drivers on how they can take steps to stay focused on the road. Most accidents are caused by some type of driver distraction, and our firm wants to make the roads safer for all Louisiana residents. Although teen drivers and cell phones are often blamed as the culprits, there are many different types of distractions that affect drivers of all ages. We want to not only bring attention to the issue, but educate the public on how to stay focused behind the wheel.

Our firm focused on education of adults with our Distracted Driving Sweepstakes in 2019, but we’d now like to focus on the next generation of drivers. We want to collaborate with local schools and organizations to share our message with students with the goal of lessening instances of distracted driving that lead to auto accidents. The dangers of distracted driving are ever present, and it’s up to all of us to do our part in making a difference by making Louisiana’s roads safer for everyone.

teacher helping studentsIn addition to our interactive quiz, we’ve created this Learning Center for educators to utilize in their classrooms. The lesson plan includes information on various distractions you may encounter while driving, as well as statistics and ways to avoid taking your eyes off the road. There is also a Feedback section at the end, where we encourage you to leave your thoughts on our program, as well as any suggestions you may have for additional content or improvement.

We hope that you will find this program fun and engaging for you and your students. Our goal is for each student to not only learn about distractions behind the wheel, but apply these lessons to their daily life and become a safer, more focused driver. Thank you for utilizing this resource in your classroom, and for helping us make a difference. Together, we can make Louisiana’s roads a safer place to drive.

Curriculum

Block 1: Visual Distractions

Visual

driver texting

Visual distractions are anything that take a driver’s eyes from the road, or change their focus from driving. It’s the most common form of distraction, and happens when you look down at your phone, a navigation system, or even the surrounding scenery.

Block 2: Manual Distractions

Manual

driver applying lipstick

Manual distractions happen when a driver takes one or both hands off the steering wheel for any reason. This can include personal grooming, eating or drinking, or smoking.

Block 3: Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive

drowsy motorist

Cognitive distractions prevent a driver’s mind from being focused on the road and their surroundings. This could be caused by daydreaming, drowsy driving, or excessively loud music that causes you to lose focus.

Lesson Plan

Visual Distractions
Causes the driver to take their eyes off the road.
driver texting

1Texting

driver using navigation system

2Navigation Systems

car full of passengers

3Passengers

pet in car while driving

4Pets

Manual Distractions
Causes the driver to take their hands off the wheel.
intoxicated driver

5Drunk Driving

driver applying lipstick

6Grooming

driver eating behind the wheel

7Eating on the Go

driver vaping

8Vaping or Smoking

Cognitive Distractions
Diverts the motorist's mental focus from the task of driving safely.
rest area sign

9When Nature Calls

distracted driver

10Head in the Clouds

drowsy motorist

11Drowsy Driving

driver singing

12Singing

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Understanding the Dangers of Texting Behind the Wheel

Texting and driving is a major distraction Neblett, Beard and Arsenault.Smartphones are an integral part of daily life for many people, helping them stay connected to work, friends, family, breaking news, and more. Unfortunately, cell phone use is also one of the leading causes of distracted driving-related accidents, injuries, and deaths. In fact, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 23 times. Add to this playing online games, or surfing the Internet on your phone while behind the wheel and it's easy to see how quickly our roads become less safe. The reason these activities are so hazardous is that they combine the three main types of driver distractions:

  • Visual—causes the driver to take their eyes off the road
  • Manual—causes the driver to take their hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive—diverts the motorist's mental focus from the task of driving safely

Even reading or sending a short text can carry devastating consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you send or read a text while driving 55 mph, your eyes were off the road long enough to travel the entire length of a football field. In an effort to prevent phone-related accidents, Louisiana law prohibits all motorists from browsing the internet; posting to social media sites; and reading, writing, or sending text messages while operating a motor vehicle on public roads and highways.

Though anyone can succumb to the temptation of texting while driving, research shows the practice is particularly prevalent among drivers under the age of 20. This combination of inexperience and distraction can lead to catastrophe. People of all ages can put safety first by keeping their phones off and out of reach while driving.

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Don't Let Your Navigation System Drive You to Distraction

Navigation and infotainment systems cause distracted driving accidents Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultOnboard infotainment and navigation systems are everywhere. Even if you don't have one built into your vehicle, you probably have something similar in the form of your cell phone.

These systems are designed to make driving easier because of their data-gathering, navigation, and entertainment features.

Unfortunately, while they're intended to make traveling less complicated, they don't always make it safer. Many motorists utilize their phone for navigation, risking distracted driving crashes. Drivers using cell phones look at but fail to see up to 50% of the information in their driving environment.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has research that reveals in-vehicle navigation and communications technology, as well as app-based programs, can create dangerous distractions for individuals behind the wheel because they demand significant attention from drivers.

For example, programming a GPS takes an average of 40 seconds, but is still considered the number one distracted driving task. Consider this, if you're moving at even a slow 25 mph, you'll travel the length of four football fields in that time. This makes fiddling with the nav system one of the most hazardous things you can do while driving.

Like other distracted driving crashes, navigation system-related car accidents are preventable. You can make a difference by programming your systems and devices in advance—before you hit the road. You can also briefly pull over to interact with in-vehicle technology while driving.

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Staying Focused—and Avoiding Accidents—When Your Passengers Are a Distraction

Distracting passengers and car accidents Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultWhen thinking of some of the most common and dangerous driver distractions, things like texting, grooming, and drowsy driving are often at the top of the list. One distraction that may not immediately come to mind is passengers. Yet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they're a contributing factor in more than half of all reported distracted driving accidents. With over 481,000 drivers using their cell phones every day while driving, adding a distracting passenger to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

Although adult passengers can cause you to lose focus while driving, kids and babies are much more likely to take your eyes off the road. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that young children are four times more distracting than adult passengers, while infants are a whopping eight times more distracting.

But what's the driving demographic most likely to be distracted by their passengers? Teenagers.

Statistics found that 60% of teen crashes involve driver distraction, many due to the passengers that are along for the ride. In fact, according to statistics cited by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, a teen driver's crash risk doubles when they have one teen passenger, and triples with two or more of their peers.

How can you prevent passenger distractions? No longer carrying passengers isn't a very realistic option but, fortunately, it isn't necessary.

While unruly passengers can be distracting, in many circumstances, the people in your car can also be an asset. A University of Utah study found that conscientious passengers can help keep drivers alert and, unlike people on the other end of a cell phone conversation who can't see the road, passengers know to pause the conversation when the situation demands. They can also help you avoid accidents by pointing out hazards you might have missed.

Also, if you're traveling with kids, having an extra adult or teen in the car who can attend to the little ones' needs can be a true lifesaver.

Finally, if you have teenagers in your household, teach them about the dangers of passenger distractions, so that they're better prepared when they hit the road with friends. You can teach them how to both drive safely and be a conscientious passenger.

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How Your Pets Can Be Demanding Distractions in the Car

Distraction of pets in the car Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultOur pets are our companions and it's only natural that we want them to accompany us on adventures, whether that's running an errand across town or driving all the way across the country.

Unfortunately, although the idea of taking a car ride with your pet sounds like a fun way to spend time together, it's also surprisingly dangerous.

Though federal safety agencies don't keep data on pet-related distracted driving accidents, a survey sponsored by AAA and Kurgo Pet Products offered valuable insight into this unique driver distraction.

While only 29 percent of respondents agreed their dog was a distraction in the car, a shocking 65% admitted to engaging in distractions like petting their dog, letting the dog sit in their lap, giving the dog treats or food, or playing with the dog while driving. Yikes!

The fact that pets may divert your attention from the road isn't the only thing that makes driving with them potentially unsafe. During an accident, an unrestrained pet may inadvertently injure itself or people in the vehicle. In a 50 mph crash, a 10 lb. dog can generate up to 500 lbs. of force; in a 30 mph accident, an 80 lb. dog can be as great as 2,400 lbs. of force.

However, staying safe on the road doesn't mean having to leave your furry friend at home. You can reduce your risk of causing a pet-related distracted driving crash by restraining your dog with a specially-designed pet seat belt or in a carrier. Other pet safety tips include feeding your dog a few hours before the trip so they don't get carsick and making them ride in the backseat to avoid airbag injuries in the event of a crash.

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Drunk Driving Endangers Everyone on the Road

drunk driving in LouisianaDistracted driving plays a role in millions of U.S. car accidents each year. In many crashes, alcohol is also a factor. Considering these distractions are defined as anything that diverts attention from operating a car, intoxication certainly qualifies. As far as on-the-road distractions go, drunk driving is one of the deadliest.

Combine alcohol and cell phone use while driving and you have a lethal mix. The first violation for a Louisiana driver caught using a cell phone is $500. Add to that a fine—or even worse—for driving under the influence, and it's plain to see how expensive and deadly this combo is.

Unfortunately, the threat of expensive fines doesn't stop some from drunk driving and using their phone. In fact, 10% of iPhone users and 4% of Android users have admitted to using their cell phone to watch YouTube while driving.

Though some think there's no harm in getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks too many or using their cell, drunk driving accident statistics tell another story. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Almost 30 people are killed in drunk driving crashes every day in the United States—that's approximately one death every 48 minutes.
  • More than 10,000 people die each year in fatal drunk driving accidents.
  • 2017 saw 10,874 people killed in crashes involving drunk driving.
  • Though it's illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher in most parts of the U.S., alcohol starts impairing judgment and driving ability at a BAC of .02—long before you're considered legally intoxicated. In fact, nearly 2,000 people died in 2017 in alcohol-related car accidents where the driver's BAC was lower than the legal limit—between .01 and .07.

People under the influence of alcohol could demonstrate erratic behavior such as:

  • Veer out of their lane or travel down the wrong side of the road
  • Drive too slow or too fast
  • Fall asleep at the wheel
  • Forget to turn on headlights or ignore traffic signs and signals
  • Fail to watch for pedestrians and other vehicles

This type of recklessness can lead to serious rear-end, side-swipe, wrong-way, and head-on collisions.

Drunk driving accidents, injuries, and deaths are preventable. To avoid the risks associated with driving intoxicated, give yourself plenty of time to sober up or - even better - get a ride from a friend or ridesharing service, and encourage those you know to do the same.

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Your Appearance Can Wait—Why Personal Grooming While Driving Can Be Deadly

The dangers of farding while driving Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultEver apply your makeup, run the electric shaver over your five o'clock shadow, or fuss with your hair while driving? If so, you may be guilty of putting yourself and everyone else on the road at risk, just for the sake of saving a few minutes.

Life is hectic. Work, family, school, and community obligations don't often leave time for much else. When you're running behind, it can be tempting to sneak a few seconds to freshen your face or hair behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, even a few seconds of distraction can have devastating and lasting consequences, and personal grooming is one of the most dangerous types of driver distractions.

Like texting, personal grooming requires taking your eyes off the road, at least one hand off the wheel, and your attention from the task of driving safely. When this happens, you'll need nearly twice as long to react to potential hazards—such as an oncoming vehicle, an animal or stopped car in the roadway, or a sudden merger or lane change. This could result in serious accidents, injuries, and deaths.

In fact, nine percent of fatal accidents involve some form of distraction, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

While the stereotype points to women, men are equally guilty of engaging in grooming behaviors behind the wheel, whether shaving off the morning stubble, fixing their hair, or checking for crumbs in their beard.

It's important to note that children and teens who see their parents taking part in these types of distracted driving behaviors are two to four times as likely to also drive distracted. Even worse, they are more likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking, more likely to drink and drive themselves, and less likely to wear a seatbelt.

Crashes caused by drivers distracted with preening are growing—but preventable—problems. To avoid fussing with your appearance while behind the wheel, consider simplifying your grooming routine, getting up a few minutes early to allow more time to get ready, or waiting until you've safely reached your destination.

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Why Eating on the Go While Behind the Wheel Isn't a Good Idea

How eating in the car might cause distraction and accidents Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultWe're busier than ever. With work, family, school, social, and community obligations constantly needing attention, it can feel as though we spend most of our time rushing from one responsibility to the next.

When you're hungry on the road, fast food and convenience stores are the quick and easy options for a meal or snack. Unfortunately, although grabbing a bite and devouring it behind the wheel may be convenient, it's also putting you at a higher risk for an accident.

Though eating while driving is extremely common, it can also be dangerous. A driver is 8 times more likely to be involved in a crash while reaching for something such as a drink, snack, or cigarette.

For decades, agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have warned motorists of the dangers of eating on the go. One particularly concerning study found that eating or drinking increases your chances of being in a distracted driving crash or near -miss crash by 39%.

Additionally, a study conducted by Lytx, a vehicle event recorder company, found that drivers who eat or drink behind the wheel are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a distracted driving accident than motorists who don't engage in that type of behavior.

What makes eating and driving so hazardous? It combines the three main types of driver distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Think about it—in the course of your meal, you might have to take your food out of its wrapper, eat it, find somewhere to put the garbage, respond to spills, and more. All these actions undoubtedly require you to take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mental focus off the task of driving safely.

Fortunately, food-related distracted driving accidents are entirely avoidable. Instead of eating while driving, set your alarm to wake you up just a few minutes earlier so you can eat at home. And don't keep food in your car—after all, if it's not there, you can't eat it and be distracted by it. Also, if you want to stay hydrated while driving, the NHTSA recommends choosing a slim travel bottle with an easy-open lid.

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Safety Can Go Up in Smoke When You Vape or Smoke While Driving

Vaping and smoking are dangerous distractions while driving Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultIf you're one of the estimated 34.3 million adults in the U.S. who smoke cigarettes or one of the 10.8 million Americans who use e-cigarettes or “vapes,” you've probably done so behind the wheel at least once.

Research shows that smoking or vaping while driving is surprisingly common and, although it isn't illegal, it definitely isn't safe.

Each year, distracted driving leads to accidents that injure approximately 400,000 people and kill an additional 3,000 or so, costing nearly $40 billion a year. And as far as driver distractions go, smoking is a doozy.

Like eating or texting, vaping or smoking diverts your focus and requires you to take your eyes off the road and at least one hand off of the steering wheel.

Think about it: when smoking a cigarette on the road, you may have to look around for your pack or lighter, light the cigarette and smoke it, then dispose of it safely. Vapes may need to be refilled, have their mouthpieces adjusted, or have their batteries recharged or changed. It doesn't matter if these actions are completed quickly; even distractions of just a few seconds can have devastating consequences.

If you have to smoke or vape while driving, here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of causing a crash:

  • Set up your smoke before you go. Your vape should be filled, charged, and ready to go—and traditional smokers should have their cigarettes lit—before you start driving.
  • Open your window. Clouds of smoke from your cigarette or vape can fill your car, obstructing your vision and increasing your risk of an accident.
  • Consider switching to a different vaping liquid. If you do vape with your windows up, be aware that some e-vape liquids leave a heavy residue on car windows that can reduce your visibility.
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Safe Traveling When Nature Calls

The dangerous distraction of needing to use a bathroom while driving Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultWhen you gotta go, you gotta go—and when you really have to go but can't, your brain (and bladder) make it difficult to think about anything other than finding sweet relief. There's never a good time to feel this way but one of the absolute worst times to have a full bladder is when you're stuck in the car.

Each day 1,000 people are injured in the U.S. due to distracted driving, with many of those accidents related to the call of nature. While you're trying to figure out exactly how long it'll take to get to a restroom, you aren't paying attention to the road or focusing on driving safely. Needless to say, that desperate urge is a distraction and it can increase your risk of being involved in an accident.

You might not think that having to relieve yourself qualifies as a serious driver distraction, but research says otherwise. One study found that the extreme need to urinate impairs judgment and focus as much as mild alcohol intoxication—and in some cases, it's as dangerous as texting while driving. Specifically, study results showed that a severe urge to pee impaired cognitive functions equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of .05, or the acute fatigue people experience after being awake for 24 consecutive hours.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of being caught with a full bladder on the road, including:

  • Relieve yourself before traveling. The simplest solution, it takes just seconds to visit the restroom before you get in the car, but it can save you so much misery and help you avoid causing an accident. Make it a habit.
  • Not drinking and driving. When you're driving, leave your beverages behind. Taking water, soda, coffee, or other drinks in the car not only increases your chances of having to go, but it also leads to distracting spills.
  • Scheduling regular bathroom breaks. Going on a trip? Don't leave your ability to locate a bathroom to chance. Plan your route, and schedule restroom and stretching breaks every 100 miles or so.
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It's Hard to Focus on the Road When Your Head's in the Clouds

Why daydreaming while driving is a dangerous distraction Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultEveryone knows paying attention to the road is the first rule of operating a vehicle. But with so much on our minds and much of the driving process governed by muscle memory, it's all too easy to zone out and engage our inner autopilot.

One second you're focused on the task at hand and the next, you're wondering if you should pick up dinner from that new restaurant downtown or wondering what your middle school best friend is up to these days.

Technology hasn't made distracted driving much safer. iPhone users are more than twice as likely as Android users to video-chat, use Instagram, stream video, and take photos or video while driving.

Though researchers say daydreaming while driving likely can't be completely eliminated, it can be minimized. Stay focused and reduce your risk of causing a distracted driving crash by:

  • Frequently changing your gaze. When you stare, your peripheral vision narrows and your mind wanders—neither of which is ideal while driving.
  • Playing verbal road games with passengers. Games like “I Spy,” which require you to continually scan your surroundings, can help you stay alert and focused on the road. They also engage passengers, who often serve as extra sets of eyes and point out hazards.
  • Actively watching for situations that may require your action. Scanning the road ahead and planning your response to potential hazards can help keep perception skills sharp.
  • Varying your driving routes. Our minds are more prone to wander when our commutes are repetitive. Taking different routes can help you stay focused on the road.
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Drowsy Motorists Are as Impaired as Drunk Drivers

Dangers of drowsy driving Neblett, Beard and Arsenault.Burning the candle at both ends? You might want to think twice—and then get some rest—before sitting behind the wheel. Multiple studies conclude drowsiness to be just as impairing as alcohol, with similar negative effects to drivers' judgment, reaction times, and concentration, all risks for a potential distracted driving crash. Studies report that 9 people die each day in the United States from distracted driving accidents.

Though most wouldn't risk the consequences of driving drunk, too many folks drive while tired on a regular basis, endangering themselves and everyone on the road.

Drowsy driving is a grossly underreported safety issue, in part because fatigue is often difficult to detect or prove after a crash. Though federal statistics estimate that drowsiness is a factor in just one to two percent of accidents, a 2018 study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the percentage of crashes involving tired drivers to be nearly eight times higher.

In fact, researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all accidents—and 10.8 percent of property damage crashes—involved fatigue!

These accidents have a number of commonalities:

  • Most happen in the late afternoon or between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • They frequently occur on rural roads and highways
  • Often involve a single driver and no evidence of braking

Additionally, commercial drivers, shift workers, people with untreated sleep disorders, motorists who take prescription medication with sedating side effects, and others who don't get enough sleep appear to be most at risk.

You can help avoid drowsy driving by getting at least seven hours of sleep and avoiding heavy foods or sedating medications before driving. Stop for a coffee and a 20-30 minute catnap if you have trouble keeping your eyes open, start drifting in and out of your lane, or don't remember the past several miles you've driven.

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Singing in the Car? High Notes Aren't the Only Things You May Hit

Why singing in the car is dangerous Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultRoad trips and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. After all, who doesn't love driving down the highway, belting out the words to their favorite tunes, and practicing their best seated dance moves?

However, hearing that song from your high school prom and singing along with friends can quickly become a distraction. As fun as car concerts can be, several studies identify music as a major driver distraction that increases your risk of getting in an accident. 

Here's what you should know.

Like eating, texting, or applying makeup, singing and dancing—even loud music—can divert your attention from safely piloting your vehicle.

This not only slows your response times but also makes it easier to completely ignore potential hazards.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was a factor in 10% of fatal crashes in 2016.

Does that mean it's time to stop listening to music in the car? No. In fact, some research suggests it may not reduce accidents. However, exercising a little common sense can help you avoid causing music-related distracted driving crashes.

For example:

  • Keep your music at a reasonable volume. One study found that reaction times slowed in response to loud music, regardless of the type. Avoid cranking the stereo so loud it drowns out the sounds of traffic.
  • Stay focused on the road. If you're singing and dancing, your full attention isn't on driving. Keep your eyes on the road and, most importantly, your mind focused on the task at hand.
  • Select your songs in advance. Changing the station or finding just the right CD are some of the most dangerous music-related driver distractions. Fortunately, you can bypass these risks entirely by utilizing Bluetooth and music streaming apps or playlists on your phone before you hit the road. 
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