Our phones are packed with tools that make driving easier and more enjoyable, like directions, real-time traffic updates, and curated playlists. The problem is that this technology has made it harder to stay focused on the road.
Short of leaving your tech at home, how can you reduce the risk of using your phone while driving? We'll walk you through some suggestions from our experts.
At Asurion, we don’t just fix and protect your tech, we teach millions of people how to get the most out of their devices, from how to protect your connected vehicle’s data to how to get Wi-Fi in your car.
Here’s our guide to what's distracted driving and how to avoid it when you’re behind the wheel.
What is the definition of distracted driving?
Distracted driving happens when any activity—texting, making a call, eating, talking with passengers, adjusting the temperature—takes your attention away from the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls texting while driving “the most alarming distraction.” It explains that sending a text while going 55 miles per hour is effectively the same as driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
How dangerous is distracted driving?
The dangers of distracted driving are well-documented, and the odds of dying in a car crash are greater if you’re using your phone. In 2021, 3,522 people died and an estimated 362,415 more were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the NHTSA. That same year, cell phone use accounted for 12% of all distracted-related fatal crashes, a total of 377.
According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent, non-profit scientific and educational organization, drivers who spent more of their driving time using a cell phone had the highest near-crash and crash rates. They also changed lanes more often, drove faster, and hit the brakes harder than those who rarely used phones while driving.
Is texting and driving illegal?
When can you legally use your cell phone while driving? Almost nowhere, at least when it comes to manually typing a text into your phone. Texting while driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), and using a handheld cell phone while driving is illegal in 24 states and D.C., according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Some states also have laws prohibiting minors and bus drivers from texting and driving.
The Ohio distracted driving law, for instance, makes it illegal to hold or use a cell phone or electronic device while driving in the state. If you’re over 18, however, you can make phone calls and receive them using a hands-free device.
How to reduce the risks of distracted driving?
There are some simple ways to reduce the risk of using your phone while driving. We’ll walk you through our top safety tips.
Place your phone where it’s easy to see and reach
To limit distractions while driving, install a phone mount. This easy-to-use, convenient gadget attaches to your car’s dashboard, windshield, or air vent and holds your phone securely in place—at eye level—while you drive. Keeping your phone in your normal line of sight means you don’t have to look down or off to the side to check for directions. Using a mount also improves your safety by letting you keep both of your hands on the wheel.
Use hands free apps
Apple CarPlay® and Android™ Auto are hands-free driving tools that let you use your favorite apps—from Apple Maps® and Google Maps™ to WhatsApp™ and Spotify®—while you drive. These safe driving apps are easy to set up and use, and because they mirror your phone screen onto your car’s display, it feels like you’re using your phone, only with a streamlined list of apps and bigger icons. With CarPlay and Android Auto, you can keep your hands on the wheel while making calls, dictating texts, listening to podcasts, getting directions, and more.
Say you’re en route to a meeting across town when you hit traffic. Just ask Google Assistant™ or Siri® to text your team to let them know you’re running late. Or say you receive a text that you want to read while you’re driving. CarPlay and Android Auto can announce the sender’s name and read you the message.
Use Do Not Disturb and other features on your phone
Most phones come with a Do Not Disturb option that silences or limits text messages, calls, and other notifications. If you have an iPhone® with iOS® 15 and later, the feature is called Driving Focus, and you can set it to automatically turn on when your phone connects to your car via Bluetooth® or senses motion. With Driving Focus, you can ask Siri® to read text replies to you and set up a custom autoreply to send to anyone messaging you while you drive.
For those with Androids, Do Not Disturb works in a similar way, muting sounds, hiding notifications, and stopping vibrations.
Airplane Mode is another option—it shuts off your phone’s Wi-Fi and mobile network access, preventing calls and texts from coming through.
Remember the basics
A few simple habits will help you keep your eyes on the road and reduce your chances of dying in a car crash. Among them:
- If you need to use your cell phone while driving, pull over in a safe place.
- Don’t use your phone when you’ve stopped at a red light or stop sign.
- Don’t call or text someone you know is driving.
- Pick your podcast or playlist before starting your car. The same goes for mapping your route.
- Finally, the best advice for cell phone use is often the simplest: Turn your phone on silent, put it in the back of your car, or turn it off before you start driving.
Want to learn how to drive safe and save? Here’s everything you need to know about safe driving apps, including how much you can save with a safe driver discount.