Each year, thousands are injured and killed due to dangerous driving behaviors. According to Craig Kelley & Faultless, LLC, dangerous driving can include aggressive driving, speeding, and distracted driving. Despite efforts to patrol distracted driving, it continues to be a major contributing factor in serious and fatal accidents each year. Since a majority of distractions force the driver to take his or her eyes off the road, most people may assume that distracted driving is only a visual impairment, but a driver may also become cognitively and/or manually impaired. One of the best ways to avoid being involved in a distracted driving related accident is by understanding the three types of distracted driving.
A visual distraction is anything that takes the driver’s eyes off of the road. In many cases, a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for “just a second”, but even looking away from the road for five seconds can be extremely dangerous. Research reveals that when a driver texts, the average time that his or her eyes are off the road is about five seconds. When traveling at 55mph, five seconds is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. Common visual distractions include reading a text message or glancing at directions, but when you engage in texting you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident and if you take a quick peek at a map, you’re 4 times more likely to have an accident.
If you want to avoid a visual distraction, keep your phone out of reach and figure out where you’re headed before you get behind the wheel. Always pull over safely and park before you take your eyes off the road and attend to anything in the car.
Ever get completely engrossed in conversation with a passenger or lose yourself in a podcast on radio and realize you weren’t focusing on the road? Anything that takes your mind off of driving, whether it’s a conversation or even your favorite song, is a cognitive distraction. Considering that we live in a multitasking society, cognitive distractions should be no surprise, but remember, that multitasking doesn’t really exist, your brain just works hard to switch from one thing to the next (which can be extremely dangerous when driving).
While it may be difficult to keep your mind from wandering, especially while stuck in gridlock, avoid engaging in any activities (such as hands free conference calls) which may take your mind off of driving.
If you’ve ever taken your hand off the wheel to grab something for your kids or reached over to pick something off of the seat next to you, you were manually distracted. A manual distraction is when the driver takes one or both hands off of the wheel for any reason. Think that taking a bite of that breakfast sandwich or adjusting the GPS is harmless? Think again. Taking just one hand off of the steering wheel can affect the control you have over your vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), doing some last minute grooming while driving can increase your risk of being involved in an accident by 3 times. Additionally, reaching for an item that fell on the floor can increase your risk by 9 times.
The best way to avoid a manual distraction is by simply keeping your hands on the wheel at all times. Always try to plan ahead by eating and drinking when you’re not driving and if you must retrieve something, pull over and park safely.
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