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The Distraction Epidemic

Driver and Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities Rise to All-Time High

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “distracted driving?” Texting and driving? While there was a 12.3% increase in driver and pedestrian accidents between 2013 and 2017 when smartphone ownership increased by 22%, texting and driving is certainly not the only culprit for distraction on the road.

In today’s digital age, there are more distractions than ever before—flashing billboards, interactive dashboard consoles, backseat movie displays, music services like Spotify and Pandora and, yes, cell phones that notify you every time news breaks of a celebrity getting married or someone likes your most recent Instagram post.

The list of things fighting for our attention is endless, as is the increase in injuries and fatalities that result from driving unfocused. Each day, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in accidents in which at least one driver is distracted.

Quite frankly, distraction is an epidemic with two parties to blame; drivers and pedestrians. We’ve all seen someone walk into a busy intersection oblivious to traffic while their eyes are glued to their phone. This phenomenon is precisely why, after a long decline, pedestrian fatalities have risen a whopping 46% since 2009.

While pedestrians have the right of way, it’s naive to think that means you shouldn’t walk (or bike, scooter, etc.) with the same caution as if you were driving. After all, the only thing worse than one distracted party is two.


Understanding Distraction

Although we can’t control what other drivers and pedestrians do, together, we can work toward reducing the number of accidents when we lead by example and talk to our children and peers. To create awareness about the distraction epidemic, it is first important to recognize the three types of distraction—visual, manual, and cognitive.



  • Visual Distraction

Visual distraction is the most common form of distraction and the culprit of many accidents. Visual distraction occurs whenever a driver’s eyes are taken off the road, whether it be to read a text, take in the scenery, turn to face the passenger while he/she is talking, etc. Likewise, a pedestrian who is scrolling through their Facebook feed while walking also is experiencing visual distraction.

  • Manual Distraction

Manual distraction often goes hand-in-hand with visual distraction, as it takes place anytime a driver’s hands are taken off the steering wheel. This could include eating and drinking, reaching in the backseat to cater to a child, texting, applying makeup and more. Or for pedestrians, fidgeting with a stroller or tying a shoelace alongside a road, diverting their attention away from surrounding traffic.

  • Cognitive Distraction

Have you ever arrived at your destination and wondered how you even got there because you’d been in such a daze? This is the perfect example of cognitive distraction; anything that distracts a driver or pedestrian’s mental focus.

How to Combat the Habit of Distraction

So now that you understand the types of distractions, what can you do to stop the habit of distraction? The solution is actually quite simple–focus on one task at a time. We do more than one thing at a time because we think we are capable of it. Guess what? No one can! We are just not hard-wired to multi-focus. 

Scientists call it “inattentional blindness.” When you are looking at your phone while you walk or multi-tasking while you drive, you just cannot give full attention to the road. And navigating your body or car must be the only priority to arrive safely. So accept your inborn human limitations and remember that there is almost nothing that can’t wait until you are safe across the street or at your final destination.



The Speed Patrol sign’s innovative design breaks through distraction by dynamically displaying a driver’s speed, flashing when the speed exceeds the limit. Click here to learn more.


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