What Are The Most Common Types of Distractions While Driving?
Any driver can succumb to distraction. Long hours on the road, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and boring daily commutes can make distractions like cell phone use attractive. Many drivers are overly confident in their ability to multi-task while driving. They turn commutes into valuable time to eat breakfast, finish personal grooming, send emails, and perform other tasks that distract from driving. This can result in preventable collisions. In 2015, 3,477 people died and 391,000 suffered injuries in distracted driving crashes. Eliminating the top causes of driver distraction could save thousands of lives.
Eating and Drinking
Driving can be the perfect time to squeeze in a meal on the road – right? Wrong. Eating and drinking while driving is a dangerous form of distraction that takes the driver’s hands and eyes off of the road. Even eating drive-thru foods designed for easy consumption while driving, such as hamburgers or burritos, is too great a risk for drivers. Eating and drinking behind the wheel can be messy and distracting, encouraging drivers to split their attention between the roadway and their meals. One second you’re looking down at your cup of coffee, the next you’re colliding with a stopped vehicle in front of you. Don’t confuse driving time with mealtime. Pull over if you need to eat or drink on the go.
Passengers and Pets
Driving around with your best friends or Fido can be fun, but know that passengers and pets pose risks of distraction. Teenagers are the most at risk of this type of distraction. They are at an age where they are still inexperienced behind the wheel and susceptible to distractions like chatty passengers. They may not know how to tell their friends they are being too loud or distracting. They are also more likely to engage in dangerous driving practices with friends in the car. Driving with unsecured pets is also dangerous. Pets can move around the vehicle, bumping into the wheel or gearshift. They can try to get into the driver’s lap, or otherwise become a distraction. Unsecured pets are also more at risk of injury and death in an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 660,000 drivers are using cell phones behind the wheel during daylight hours at any given time. Cell phone use is a significant and deadly distraction in Arizona and around the world. Cell phones open the door to communicating, working, and entertainment at the push of a button. For many drivers, the temptation to use a cell phone while driving is too great to resist. Using handheld electronic devices while in any type of traffic is dangerous. When a driver uses a cell phone, he or she is distracted on all three levels: manual, visual, and cognitive. This makes cell phones one of the deadliest distractions on the road.
Lost in Thought
It may come as a surprise, but the greatest distraction of all isn’t an item or action – it’s simply getting lost in thought. Drivers who become distracted by their thoughts are prone to making critical errors such as failing to notice a light has turned red. They go into “autopilot,” especially on routes they take all the time, such as commutes to and from work. Drivers on autopilot are slower to react to changing roadway conditions and hazards. They are less likely to be able to prevent collisions through driving maneuvers. Drivers must make a conscious effort to not only avoid physical distractions, but mental ones as well.