The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can increase the likelihood of a serious motor vehicle crash, which can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities. In 2020, 3,142 people were killed in accidents involving distracted driving, which refers to activities that divided or divert your attention from driving. Teen and young adult drivers, specifically drivers aged 15-20 years old, are most at risk of being involved in distracted driving accidents. However, anyone can become a victim/survivor of such a crash.
Motorcyclists and drivers are not the only people at risk of being involved in a distracted driving crash. In 2019, nearly one in five people who died in distracted driving collisions were not in an automobile but were riding a bicycle, waking, or outside of a vehicle.
Three Types of Driving Distractions
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three primary types of driving distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. We will discuss each of these distraction types in further detail below and outline some tips to help you avoid such distractions.
Visually distracted driving occurs when a driver takes their eyes off the road. According to the CDC, if a driver is visually distracted while going 55 mph, that is similar to driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes shut. Types of visual distractions include:
- Texting and driving
- Looking at your GPS
- Fiddling with your radio or Spotify playlist
- Doing your hair or makeup
- Looking at billboard or roadway distractions
These types of distractions are particularly dangerous as they can negatively impact a driver’s ability to react to driving hazards or remain aware of their surroundings. To stay safe, utilize hands-free technology and pull over if you need to groom, reset your GPS, or engage in an activity that could take your eyes off the road. Keep your phone out of reach or put it on “Do Not Disturb” if that will help you avoid temptation.
Manually distracted driving incidents occur when a driver takes one or both of their hands off the wheel or steering mechanisms. Drivers may engage in this type of distracted driving when they:
- Eat or drink
- Try to help a passenger, especially those in the backseat
- Look through their glove box or bag
Again, pulling over to safety before you engage in these activities is the best way to stay safe. If you need help eating, drinking, or finding something, you can also ask a passenger for help rather than doing it yourself.
Cognitive distractions, as their name suggests, involve taking your mind off of driving. While your hands may be on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, mentally you are somewhere else. If you are engaged in a lively discussion with other passengers or a person on the phone, anxious or worried about home life or work, involved in a daydream, or caught up in a song, you may not be entirely focused on driving. Data from the National Safety Council suggests that drivers are not fully aware of 50% of their surrounding if they are talking on a hands-free device.
For your safety as well as that of others, you should try to take notice of how much you remember of the last five minutes of your drive. If you can’t remember much, consider what activity might be making your mind drift while you drive.