Talk on the phone. Eat a sandwich. Take a sip of coffee. Pet the dog. Change the radio station. These are common tasks we often take a few seconds to do while driving. As quickly as they take to do, an accident can happen just as quickly.

Cell phones have drastically impacted the rise in distracted driving. More than 220 million people in the U.S. subscribe to a cell phone service. Nearly 80 percent of those people use their cell phones while driving. AAA found through a study that electronics, including cell phones, are the number one source of distraction while driving for teenagers. While cell phones can be convenient to take on-the-go in the car, they can lead to accidents, injuries, and even death.

In Kentucky alone, the Kentucky Department of Transportation reported 60,000 accidents were caused by distracted driving. Of these 60,000 accidents,15,000 led to injuries and196 resulted in death.

There are three main types of distractions while driving, according to the Kentucky Department of Transportation.

  1. Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
  2. Manual (taking your hands off the wheel)
  3. Cognitive (taking your mind off what you’re doing)

It’s important to understand when a distraction happens, it often cognitively lasts longer than the task itself. In additional to minor tasks, pets and children can cause dangerous distractions while driving. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, children are 4x more distracting than adults, and infants are 8x more distracting. It’s important to buckle in your children safely and securely so you can keep your eyes on the road. Use these tips when driving with a child in the backseat:

  • properly restrain children in the back seat
  • make sure the harness straps are snug and your child stays in his or her car seat
  • teach your children the importance of obedience in a moving vehicle
  • pack toys to keep your children occupied
  • play music to keep your child quiet

When driving with pets, secure them with a gate, cage or a harness. Never let your animal sit in or lap or roam throughout the car. Give your pet a toy, bone, and be sure to keep the car at a comfortable temperature to keep your pet occupied. If your pet is riding in the car for an extended period of time, be sure to stop periodically for a break outside of the car.

In Kentucky, drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. The law states:

  • No person may write, send or read a text-based communication (including text messages instant messages and emails) while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion.
  • No person under the age of 18 may operate a motor vehicle while using a personal communication device (including talking, texting or emailing on cell phones, smart phones or other PDAs) except when it is necessary to summon medical help or law enforcement in an emergency situation.

Distracted driving laws are state laws in the United States. In Kentucky, Drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use cell phones (handheld or hands-free) while driving. There is not a general population restriction for cellphone use in Kentucky.

“If a driver under the age of 18 must answer a phone call, it is important the driver safety pulls off the road before returning the call. If the call is not an emergency, let it go to voicemail and listen to the message later. It’s better to be safe than sorry behind the wheel,” says attorney Kevin Shannon of the Bryant Law Center.

If an officer sees a driver texting while driving, the officer is allowed to pull the driver over without the driver committing any other offense. Texting while driving is a primary law in the state of Kentucky. The first offense fine is $25 and then $50 for any after plus court costs.

It is important to understand the importance of keeping your eyes on the road while driving. In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Bryant Law Center encourages you to help us raise awareness and sign the pledge against distracted driving. http://transportation.ky.gov/Highway-Safety/Pages/No-Texting-Pledge.aspx

© National Conference of State Legislatures