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Distracted Driving Facts and Tips to Say Safe on Wisconsin's Roads

By Keith Stachowiak on June 8, 2017 // Leave a Comment

Are you making the choice to drive safely, without distraction?

With cell phones, navigation devices and the advent of vehicle WiFi, it can be difficult to unplug from technology, even on the road! But making the choice to drive, without distraction, can help reduce injuries and fatalities on Wisconsin’s roadways.

At Murphy & Prachthauser, we want to help raise awareness about distracted driving through education. Take a look at all of the facts and information you should know to help stop distracted driving in its tracks.

This article will review:

  • The three different types of distracted driving
  • Distracted driving statistics
  • Wisconsin’s distracted driving laws
  • Hands-free technology and distractions
  • Simple tips to stay focused on the road

The Three Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving doesn’t just mean texting and driving. In fact, the type of distraction you face is often more important than what is causing the distraction.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off of the road
  • Manual – taking your hands off of the wheel
  • Cognitive – taking your mind off of the task of driving

So while reading a text and driving is certainly a visual and manual hazard, a cognitive distraction can be just as dangerous. In fact, later in this article, we’ll share a study that points to the dangers of cognitive distractions in more detail.

Distracted Driving Statistics Are On the Rise

In recent years, the number of distracted driving accidents has been steadily increasing.

  • In 2015, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving
  • 61% of people said they feel comfortable texting while driving

Consider what you can do to prevent distracted driving and what laws you need to look out for in Wisconsin.

Read this article about Facetime and driving - you may be suprised by the findings.

What are Wisconsin’s Distracted Driving Laws?

  • Wisconsin currently bans text messaging for all drivers
  • Wisconsin does not currently ban the use of handheld cellphones while driving, but Wisconsin drivers are required to use hands-free devices through road construction areas
  • Cell phone use is prohibited for drivers with a learner’s permits and drivers with an intermediate license

Does Hands-Free Technology Lead to More Distractions?

According to a 2016 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hands-free talking and voice activated programs may not be as safe as people believe.

“We’re seeing that using hands-free technology to text or email is frankly more distracting than talking on the phone, which still has a significant risk associated with it,” said Pam Moen, the spokeswoman for the Wisconsin branch of AAA.

The AAA study called Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile identified and measured the cognitive distraction drivers face when performing tasks in addition to driving.

Three experiments were done to measure the cognitive mental workload in addition to performing numerous tasks, like listening to the radio, listening to an audiobook, having a conversation in the vehicle and using hands free technology or speak-to-text programs

Through a variety of techniques for measuring cognitive distraction, the study found that listening to the radio or an audio book requires a relatively low increase in cognitive workload while driving. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the speech-to-text tasks required three to five times the cognitive workload as the single task of driving a vehicle without a secondary task.

The high cognitive distraction of using speech-to-text applications is very dangerous on the road.

While the AAA study suggests that hands-free technology has a high workload rating for cognitive distraction, and, therefore, may contribute to distracted driving, as technology improves and more research is done on how using the hands-free or voice command technology affects driving, it is entirely possible that the answer to this question will change. If you would like to read the cognitive distraction study by AAA, click on the link below:


Ten Tips to Stay Focused on the Road

  • Only use your cell phone for emergency situations.
  • Make sure you are familiar with your car settings. You should be able to do simple tasks, like adjusting the temperature and changing the radio station without taking your eyes off of the road.
  • If you can, limit the number of passengers or the number of activities allowed in the car. If you need to address a situation in the backseat, do not turn around. Instead, pull over to a safe location.
  • If you need to use GPS navigation, set it up before you get on the road, or pull over and stop to get started.
  • Get enough sleep. Being tired can be a big distraction.
  • Avoid eating and drinking in the car.
  • If you are upset, keep in mind that your cognitive state can affect your decision making and level of distraction.
  • Do not allow your pets to roam freely in your car.
  • Do not apply make-up, shave your beard or check your appearance in general while you drive.
  • When in doubt, pull over to a safe location.

Additional Resources:

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Additional Sources:
Lydia Mulvany, Voice technology rated as risky, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 13, 2013.David L. Strayer, Joel M. Cooper, Jonna Turrill, et al., Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, June 2013 at 29.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2016. Traffic Safety Facts Research Note.