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Training, Research and
Education for Driving Safety

Distracted Driving

What is distracted driving:  Distracted driving (DD) occurs when the driver has their eyes, ears, hands or attention away from the road. Distractions include phones, radios, GPS devices, passengers, computers, and other items such as food.

Why do we care:  DD is associated with an increased crash risk and has become an increasingly important public safety concern. Our best estimates are that talking on a phone and driving increases the crash risk 2-4 fold, with no difference between hands-free and handheld. Texting is estimated to increase the risk up to 23 fold. These rates are similar to driving under the influence of alcohol (a BAC of .08 is a 4 fold increase).  In 2012, there were 3,328 deaths and 421,000 injuries nationwide due to collisions involving at least one distracted driver; a minimum of 26% of all crashes involved talking and texting on cell phones.  The use of cell phones while driving is currently the leading cause of driver distraction crashes in California.

What is the law:  Across the country, states have implemented bans on phones and texting. Ten states have banned handheld phones, including California. California has also banned any and all texting, any phone use for novice drivers, and any phone use by school bus drivers.

What can you do: 

  • Phone use is like an addiction: people know it is dangerous, but can’t resist the behavior. Before starting a trip, remove the phone from temptation: turn it off, put it on airplane mode, or get an ‘app’ that blocks calls during driving.
  • It is particularly important to not engage in DD with children in the car.
  • Speak to employers about the need to be safe behind the wheel, and encourage the development of a ‘no cell phone use while driving’ policy if one does not exist.
  • Leave a message on your personal and work phones that you don’t take calls while driving.
  • Know and abide by cell phone laws.

TREDS Research:  Our team has conducted surveillance of DD behaviors to inform interventions and policies to reduce DD.

2011/2012 Survey – Distracted Driving Behaviors of San Diego County College Students

2013 Survey – Distracted Driving Behaviors of San Diego County Adults

Distracted Driving Education:  The UC San Diego TREDS program offers ‘Just Drive – Take Action Against Distraction’ to promote safe and responsible driving on San Diego roadways.




Distracted Driving Resources:

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Allstate Foundation

AT&T “No Texting While Driving”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving

Federal Communications Commission

Governors Highway Safety Administration

Impact Teen Drivers

National Safety Council

Negligent Driving

Safe TREC (UC Berkeley)

United States Department of Labor (OSHA)