No matter what vehicle you drive, it all comes down to the same scenario: What you’re essentially doing is operating a large steel box full of complicated machinery at high speeds, and thinking that you’re the best at driving.
The problem with this scenario, unfortunately, is that everyone likes to think they’re great at multitasking, and as a result end up doing a lot of things they should while operating said speeding hunk of steel. Or carbon fiber…or whatever your car is made up of; either way, if you’re trying to multitask while driving, you’re doing it wrong.
The fact of the matter is, distracted driving is one of many reasons why we have so many accidents each year, and I’m sure we can all be on the same page about those numbers needing to go down. The best thing you can do for your safety and the safety of those around you is to practice defensive driving, rather than distracted driving, to ensure the road is as safe as it can be for all. Now, maybe you’re one of the many distracted drivers out there, and I’m sure these things have at this point become habit, and you’re not sure where to start. Possibly the best think I can do for you first is to point out the types of things that are considered distracted driving. After all, the first step to breaking a bad habit is to know and admit you have one in the first place, and there’s more to driving distracted than you may think.
Distractions while driving are numerous, but typically they are of three different types: Visual, Manual, and Cognitive.
Visual distractions are those things that you can see that distract from the task at hand – in this case, driving. If you’re being distracted visually, it means that you’re not looking where you’re going, and are instead giving your attention to that pedestrian on the sidewalk, or that other driver that is just going way to slow, or riding your bumper behind you. Or, if you’re a family person, your children can be a visual distraction as well, especially if they picked today to be loud and rambunctious right when you strapped them in.
Manual distractions are anything that cause your hands to at any point leave the steering wheel. For example, your kids are being loud and rambunctious and you reach back to smack one of them. Or, say you were running late for work and are trying to fix your hair or your makeup while you’re driving, or you’re getting breakfast in before you arrive. All of these things mean your hands are no longer on the wheel, and your vehicle is now maneuvering on its own – and no, your knee doesn’t count as a proper hand replacement.
Finally, cognitive distractions are those that aren’t so physical. These are distractions of your mind and can be caused by the monotony of your everyday work commute, something that’s upset you prior to coming out, anger at other drivers or pedestrians – anything that takes your mind off of the task at hand. Sure, to some of us, we’ve been driving so long that the action is second nature. However, if you’re not focused on the task, you’re also not likely to be focused on everything else going on around you, and that’s a recipe for disaster on the road.
Think of it this way: On the average US highway, you’re going 55 or more miles per hour. If the average time a person’s eyes are of the road when they’re distracted is 5 seconds, you’ve covered the distance of an entire football field in that time.
It may not seem like much; in fact, I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking “Wow, five seconds, yeah, that’s sooo long.” Well, at those speeds, a lot can happen in that time; you could hit someone’s bumper because you didn’t see them in time to slow down; you could hit someone getting out of their broken down vehicle on the side of the road; you could miss seeing someone trying to cut you off in passing, and have them hit you. So many things can happen, and if you’re busy staring out the window instead of looking where you’re going, then you’re likely to end up hurt.
Here’s a video that helps illustrate the point…
As mentioned above, these are distractions which require you to remove your hands from the steering wheel at any given time while operating a moving vehicle – and this includes while you’re stopped at a red light. If you’re one who actively and consistently has trouble getting everything you need to have done before work done before you leave the house, then time management, as well as a defensive driving course, may benefit you. We all understand that you want to look your best, but we’d also like to continue living our lives; say it with me: I Will Not Fix My Makeup And Hair While Driving. Good! Now, this encompasses eating while driving, adjusting the radio, texting, reprimanding the kids (it’s honestly more terrifying for them if you make them wait until you get home anyway, it can wait.), and reaching into your bag or purse for something you probably shouldn’t be messing with while driving. So keep both hands on the wheel at all times, folks!
If you, like me, have an active imagination and a tendency to day dream, then this one’s for us. A cognitive distraction can be letting your mind wander to other things, checking a text or your e-mail, talking to passengers, and letting your emotions rule you, and all of them take your mind off of the task at hand. This not only serves as a distraction, but also greatly decreases your reaction time, so letting your mind wander instead of paying attention to the road and what you’re doing is always a dangerous call to make. I understand the commute to work can be tedious and boring, but for the sake of yourself and all of us: Focus!