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Biggest Causes of Distracted Driving

Even though Wisconsin and many other states in the U.S. have laws in place to prevent distracted driving, it is still a problem. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation reports a distracted driving crash happens somewhere in Wisconsin every 22 minutes.

It’s a nationwide issue, as well. In 2019, there were over 3,000 people killed by distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving — and the resulting crashes, injuries, and deaths — can be prevented with safe, mindful driving behaviors. 

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver, the personal injury attorneys at Boller & Vaughan are here to help you. Call our Madison, Wisconsin, office at 608-268-0268 or contact us online to learn more about your legal options.

Types of Distracted Driving Activities

According to the NHTSA, Distracted driving is any behavior that “takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.” Driving safely requires a person’s full attention, so any non-driving activity a motorist engages in can potentially distract them and increase their risk of crashing…and causing injury or even death.

Distracted driving activities may fall into one of three main types, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.


Manual distractions involve taking your hands off the wheel. Picking up your phone, adjusting climate controls, fiddling with the stereo, and eating or drinking are types of manual distractions.


Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off the road. Examples include looking at GPS navigation, turning to check on pets or kids in the car, or reading a text on your phone.


Cognitive distractions involve taking your mind off driving. Talking to passengers in your car, paying more attention to music or a podcast than the road, and letting your mind wander are types of cognitive distractions.

The most dangerous distracted driving behavior

While many behaviors can distract you from driving, one of the most dangerous ones is texting. Wisconsin even enacted a state law that forbids driving any motor vehicle “while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail message.” That means law enforcement in Wisconsin can stop drivers suspected of texting for that reason alone.

Using your phone to text diverts your hands, eyes, and attention from the road for about five seconds. In that time, traveling at 55 mph, you’d have driven the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. 

Tips for Preventing Distracted Driving 

To keep yourself, your passengers, and other motorists on the road safe, it’s important to avoid driving while distracted. The following tips can help you practice safe driving:

  • “Leave your phone alone until you get home,” as one of the public service announcements in Wisconsin urged. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, stow it away in a bag, or place it out of reach so you aren’t tempted to use it while driving.
  • Use an app or a phone feature that sends auto-responses, letting people know you’re driving and will reply later.
  • If you must use your phone to make a call or get directions, pull over to a safe area first, or have a passenger handle the phone for you.
  • Eat, apply makeup, fix your hair, and check navigation instructions before you start driving. In other words, plan ahead and avoid distractions when you can.
  • Speak up when you see distracted driving happen, whether it’s a friend, parent, child, or family member.
  • If you see a distracted driver on the road, be extra cautious and give them extra room.

If you violate Wisconsin’s distracted driving laws, be aware that you may get a ticket for inattentive driving, a fine, and demerit points against your license. Drivers with learners’ permits may receive double the amount of demerit points and may have to wait six months after the violation to be eligible for a probationary license.

Involved in a Distracted Driving Accident in Wisconsin?

Distracted driving comes with serious repercussions, from points on your license to monetary fines to the possibility of injury or death in a crash. Being aware of common causes of distracted driving behaviors and knowing how to prevent them can decrease the risk of accidents involving distracted driving.

The Boller & Vaughan team of attorneys based in Madison, Wisconsin, can help if you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted driving accident. To learn more about filing a personal injury claim against a distracted driver, call our Madison, Wisconsin office free of charge at 608-268-0268 or fill out an online contact form. You may also like and follow our Facebook page for more Wisconsin legal resources and news updates.