GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Distracted driving is a fact of life. So what can we do to minimize the risk of accidents?

The driver's primary responsibility here in Europe and abroad is to operate a motor vehicle safely. The task of driving requires full attention and focus.

Drivers need to keep their attention concentrated on surrounding traffic at all times, to avoid accidents and fatalities.

"For 2018 Military Police have written 71 citations for various distracted driving charges," said Jason Kesselring, Operations Officer at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Directorate of Emergency Services.

What is distracted driving? Distracted driving is any inattention or non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motorized vehicle. These activities have the potential to sidetrack the person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are three factors toward distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive deficits. Young adults and teenage drivers have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Our Soldier population is reflective of these statistics.

A common occurrence is a visual deficit, which entails taking your eyes off the road. Another is manual, such as taking your hands off the wheel. Last, but far from least, is cognitive, which means dozing off or simply taking your attention off what you're doing: driving.

Distracted while driving in Europe is really not a good idea. European driving goes from winding country roads to narrow cobblestone streets to roaring autobahns, where in places there is no speed limit. Whether you are downtown in the harrowing L'Arc de triomphe de l'Étoile in Paris, on the intoxicating Autobahn six (A6) rolling out of Kaiserslautern or forced to drive aggressively in the Piazza Venezia in Rome, drivers here in Europe have shorter reaction times.

"Reaction is a person's voluntary or involuntary response to a hazard. The normal time it takes from perception to reaction is 1.6 seconds," said Kesselring. He also said this may vary depending on age, strength of stimulus, physical conditions, habits and perception delays.

This means we should resist engaging in all activity that takes our eyes and attention off the road for more than a couple of seconds. In some circumstances, even a single instance can make all the difference in a driver being able to avoid an accident.

Another factor in distracted driving is the use of electronic entertainment and communication devices. These days we all have cell phones that text, receive calls, and provide directions. Overall, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.

"Most European countries have laws that clearly state; Any use of a mobile phone (making and receiving calls without a hands-free kit, rejecting a call, texting and reading news, searching for data online) is forbidden when driving a vehicle" said Kesselring.

So know the rules of the road. Stay alert and always drive safe.