The dangers of distracted driving


The dangers of distracted driving

Source: Coxwell One woman is driving down a quiet side street, applying her makeup, talking on speakerphone to her best friend, and simultaneously trying to eat her breakfast sandwich. A man is driving his children to school, but they are squabbling in the back and he keeps having to turn around to ask them to stop, to take a toy from them, and to make sure they’re okay in between sips of coffee. A third driver keeps changing the radio station and looking down to see if it’s her favourite channel yet so she can jam to her morning session. Another driver commutes listening to a podcast and contemplating the ideas presented.

What do each of these drivers have in common? Besides the fact they may all be in danger of crashing, each driver is driving distracted. But what are the dangers of distracted driving?

Distracted driving is categorised in three ways: manual distractions, visual distractions, and cognitive distractions. Each can be dangerous. If you find that you’re guilty of one or all of these, be sure to amend your driving habits. Let’s find out a little bit more:

  • Manual Distractions

Anything that forces you to take your hands from the steering wheel is a manual distraction. Manual distractions are activities such as eating, drinking, adjusting the radio dials, grooming yourself (or others), smoking, searching through your purse, wallet, handbag, or briefcase, turning car dials (such as for the heater or air conditioner), helping a child with their seat belt or car seat, and more.

These types of distractions are dangerous because one or both hands have been removed, and may stop you (as the driver) from steering correctly as well as impairing reaction times. If you get into an accident caused by a manual distraction, the car is likely to veer from the road.

  • Visual Distractions

Just as it implies, visual distractions take your eyes from the road. These distractions can include operating a GPS, reading smartphone messages or texts, browsing a playlist, reaching or searching for an item (when your eyes follow), putting on makeup (will also be manual), staring at scenery or billboards, searching for dropped items on the car floor, adjusting the temperature controls (if you’re looking at the buttons), and others.

Visual distractions cause driver blindness. When you aren’t looking at the road, you are driving with your eyes figuratively closed. You wouldn’t start your car and reverse with your eyes closed. Even if you think that you are only looking for seconds - often the distractions take much longer - and in five seconds, your car may travel the length of a football field. What could happen in the time it takes to travel that far? When you drive with visual distractions, you can no longer assess your surroundings or identify potential hazards.

  • Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions are, perhaps, the most difficult category to assess since these distractions are any type of distraction that takes your mind off driving. That can include daydreaming, talking to passengers, talking on speakerphone, checking email, driving when drowsy, road rage, thinking about something upsetting, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and others. This distraction is difficult to quantify, and it’s very easy to have your mind wander when on the road.

Since there are no physical distractions here it’s tricky, but the mind is exceptionally powerful. Even when using hands-free devices to make phone calls, it’s no safer than handheld devices. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drivers miss 50% of visual cues when talking on a hands-free device.

  • Avoiding Distractions

To avoid distracted driving, you have to understand what it is first and make an effort to concentrate on the road exclusively. Many do understand that texting and driving is distracting, but may not think that talking to their passenger is distracting too. Activities such as sending and reading text messages, covers each type of distraction since it’s a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction, increasing the likelihood of accidents by four times.

Be alert when driving and make an effort to reduce distractions. Before you drive, ensure you have eaten, that you have gotten fully ready, that you limit times you drink in the car, tune the radio, podcast, or iPod ahead of time. Place any items you need - such as sunglasses - within reach. Turn off your mobile phone. Program the GPS and try to spend more time looking at the road than your device. Set a great example for passengers and other drivers by practicing safe habits.

If you have been in a car accident, before you contact your insurance company, be sure to call a trusted attorney for legal advice, especially if your accident was caused by distracted a distracted driver.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.