When you hear the term “distracted driving,” you probably picture someone who is texting or using a cell phone to make a call. Many times that cellphone is the culprit, but there are many other kinds of distractions that divide motorists’ attention when they should be focusing solely on the road.
Accidents happen swiftly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,000 people are injured each day in crashes involving distracted drivers. All it takes is a few moments of diverted attention behind the wheel to change lives forever.
All it takes is a second of inattention
Picture a man who has been traveling the same stretch of road for years. He knows every curve and pothole, so he is perfectly comfortable drinking a soda and eating a taco while he drives. An oncoming driver is unfamiliar with the area, but since traffic is light, she takes her eyes from the road to find a good country music station on the radio. It only takes seconds for her to drift across the center line. The other driver never sees her coming: He is reaching into the bag on the passenger seat, looking for another taco.
These common behaviors are all examples of the three main types of distraction that affect driving performance:
- Manual – taking your hands off the steering wheel
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Cognitive – taking your mind off the task of driving
The reason texting while driving is so dangerous is that it involves all three types of distraction (hands, eyes and mind) However, as you can see, this is not the only behavior drivers should watch out for.
Other common distractions
Common activities that people perform while behind the wheel include grooming, applying makeup, reading books or newspapers, watching videos on a cell phone or tablet, programming a GPS system, picking up something off the floor, reaching into the back seat, and gawking at a roadside accident.
For instance, the Minnesota State Patrol, in one crackdown on distracted driving in March, observed the following head-shaking examples:
- A driver who failed to stop for a pedestrian because he was distracted by a live chicken in his lap
- Teenagers who were reading text messages from their parents while driving
- A driver who was making an NBA fantasy draft list on his smartphone
- A person using his phone to shop for cars … while driving one!
Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel
The list is endless, and so are the kinds of injuries that distracted driving can cause in accidents. For the safety of your passengers, other motorists and yourself, always keep your focus on the road ahead and hold on to the steering wheel. And put down the cellphone.