Who hasn’t attempted to remove something from the oven without first putting on an oven mitt? Who hasn’t cracked an egg directly into the trash before throwing the shell into the pan? And who hasn’t realized that their socks are mismatched until they’re halfway through a job interview? So long as you’re human, you’re bound to make mistakes.


Unfortunately, many seemingly innocent errors can have catastrophic consequences. Distracted driving is chief among them. You may not appreciate just how frequently you take your eyes off the road – but any of those brief, fleeting moments can ruin your life forever.


Distracted Drivers Ruin Lives


Nearly one out of 10 deadly collisions are attributable to distracted driving. Every year in the United States, over 3,000 people die as the result of dangerous yet completely avoidable mistakes. In South Dakota alone, 250 people were killed or injured in 2021 because of distracted driving.


Most teen drivers who were involved in crashes were distracted at the time of the incidents. For example, on June 15th, 2016, Callison Mae Olson struck and killed a police officer and his wife while the two were riding their motorcycle. Had the 17-year-old simply pulled over before checking her phone, the tragedy could have been completely avoided.


But anyone can cause a fatal or otherwise life-altering accident as the result of driving while distracted. Professional truck drivers, chief executives and politicians are all capable of momentary lapses of judgment that can effectively ruin their lives – and that’s to say nothing of the victims and their families, who endure greater loss than we can describe.


What Are the Most Common Causes of Distracted Driving?


So long as it takes your full attention away from the road, anything could cause distracted driving. That said, distracted driving usually results from one of the following.


  • Cell phones. The National Safety Council estimated that cell phones and texting cause at least 1.6 million vehicle crashes every year. Because that estimate was provided in 2010 – and cell phone use has only become more prevalent since then – we can only assume the current figure is substantially higher. Keep your phone in your pocket, put it in the glovebox, or leave it at home. Just don’t use it while you’re controlling an object that weighs over one ton! And don’t rely on hands-free phones while you’re driving, either, as research suggests they are equally distracting as handheld alternatives.


  • Passengers. Driver interaction with passengers is accountable for approximately 3.5% of crashes. Even if you keep your eyes trained on the road, the simple act of speaking with passengers makes driving a vehicle more dangerous by delaying reaction speed, impairing sign recognition, and making you less aware of the speed at which you’re traveling. 


  • Pets. Pets have been known to cause accidents while their owners aren’t present, as was the case when a dog put a car in drive at a Walmart parking lot last year. More typically, dogs and other pets cause accidents when they unexpectedly engage with the driver. In 2019, a 71-year-old woman struck and killed a 73-year-old after one of her six dogs jumped into her lap. A simple crate or car barrier could have prevented that and many other tragedies.


  • Moving objects. Attempting to catch a falling object is instinctual – and if that falling object happens to be a beverage, you will feel especially motivated to stop it before it can soak your car’s upholstery and floor mats. It’s crucial to make certain your vehicle is devoid of objects that can weaken your attention while they’re moving. That includes any cargo you may keep in your van or pickup truck.


  • Outside distractions. “Rubbernecking” is the act of turning one’s head to stare at something. It’s a funny word for a serious problem that causes over 10% of all auto accidents. Just remember: Nothing you see while driving is of greater interest than the road ahead.


Distracted Driving Can Raise Your Insurance Premium


If you do drive distracted, and you do become responsible for an accident, then we dearly hope no one is injured or killed as a result. But even if everyone walks away from the incident unharmed, your mistake may still cost you dearly. Civil court can rule that a distracted driver’s inattention constituted negligence. When that is the case, the distracted driver is deemed to be at-fault for the accident they caused. At that point, their auto insurance premium is all but guaranteed to increase.


At McKinneyOlson Insurance, we hope every auto insurance policy we provide will go unused. Sadly, both our clients and the drivers they share the roads with are bound to make mistakes. If you would like to do everything in your power to prevent a car accident from ruining you financially, then we welcome you to contact us today. We have served the greater Sioux Falls, SD area for all its insurance needs since our foundation in 1880!