When you’re driving – whether you’re operating a small sports vehicle or a large SUV – you’re successfully operating a giant hunk of metal and machinery. Normally at high speeds.
While you may think you’re the best multitasker in the world and the best driver anyone’s ever seen, distractions while driving are one of the largest reasons for traffic accidents caused by any driver, and should be avoided in order to keep yourself and others safe while on the road.
Now, you may be saying “Well, yeah, this is obvious. Of course, distractions distract you from driving, who doesn’t know that?” I understand – I used to think just like you.
Unfortunately, not everyone does, and even if you’re not a driver that likes to do other things while driving, it is still a best practice to know how to practice defensive driving in order to anticipate others driving while distracted.
I shouldn’t have to tell you why it’s a bad idea, but for the sake of others and this blog post, today we’ll be going over a few of the habits some of us have adopted while driving and why they can be a huge mistake for you and everyone else.
Types Of Distractions
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three distinct types of driving distractions:
- Visual – this means you’re not looking at where you’re going and instead focusing your attention on other things; this can mean other drivers, items within the vehicle, or other people in the car with you;
- Manual – this distraction occurs any time your hand or hands leave the steering wheel, including reaching for things in the car, eating, applying makeup, etc., and;
- Cognitive – this means letting your mind wander away from the task at hand (driving) and to other things.
All of these types pretty much encompass anything and everything that can go wrong while you’re operating a moving vehicle, and we’ll be going through a few of the more common distractions a little more in-depth here as well.
With today’s technology being as advanced as it is, this one is becoming more and more frequent on the ‘Reasons for Accidents’ list. If the three main types of distractions while driving are manual, visual, and cognitive, texting while driving is the entire package rolled up into one.
Imagine this: You’re on the highway, going around 55mph, and you get a text from a friend.
While the typical read-text-and-reply action only takes about ten seconds – five to read and five to respond – you’re still going 55mph during that ten seconds, only your attention is on your phone, not the road.
Because of this, you’ve essentially gone 100 or so yards blind, and suddenly you look up, and a car that wasn’t that close when you looked down is right in front of you, and you’ve got about two seconds to break before you hit them.
Sure, you can break in that time and not hit them, but why risk the stress, adrenaline, and possible harm you could cause by putting yourself in that position? You may not think that’s a likely scenario, but trust us – it happens all the time.
Eating And Drinking
Again, you may think you’re the best driver/multitasker in the world, but distractions come in all shapes and sizes. This one may not seem quite as bad as some of the others that we’ll be going over, but there are lots of unforeseen things that can happen to make them awful:
- Spilling your beverage;
- Greasy hands slipping accidentally off the wheel;
- One-handed driving equals less control of the wheel;
- Dropping food and looking down to see where it went.
Nobody (well, nobody I’ve met) is immune to clumsiness, and eating while driving is a recipe for disaster and messiness, so it’s best to wait or eat prior to getting into your vehicle.
As working adults, we typically have hectic schedules and are almost always pressed for time. I get it; I often find myself out of time to do everything I wanted to do before leaving the house.
However, even though there are vanity mirrors located on the backside of the windscreen in your vehicle, you should never, ever use these or other mirrors while driving. If you absolutely must fix your hair or makeup, you have two choices: wake up earlier to give yourself more time, or do it when you are parked at your destination.
The mirrors in your vehicle are made solely for three things: maintaining sight of your surroundings and other vehicles, watching for other drivers when changing lanes, and instilling fear into the hearts and minds of your rowdy children. Let’s keep it that way, whaddya say?
Referencing again the busy, hectic lives we all lead, another common distraction while driving is fatigue. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, maybe you’ve been up for an inhuman amount of time and absolutely can’t wait for your head to hit your comfy pillow at home; all you know is you’re tired, your eyelids are heavy, and nothing is working to keep you awake.
As drivers, it’s likely that we’ve all been there, and if this has happened to you and you’re here to read this, consider yourself lucky. Fatigue reduces our alertness and reaction time, and if you fall asleep at the wheel, there’s no telling what can happen, especially if you don’t immediately catch yourself or jerk awake.
If you’re feeling fatigued, the best thing to do is find a place to stop and rest for a little while. Your car or a hotel might not be as comfortable as your own bed, but it’s a much better option than a hospital bed.
According to researchers, kids are 4x more distracting than adult passengers, while infants are 8x more distracting! No matter how behave your children are in the backseat, you can’t expect them to stay still.
Shouting and fighting in the backseat, asking “Are we there yet?” from time to time, car sickness, and infants or toddlers crying — all of these will distract you from driving.
When you can’t concentrate, don’t hesitate to pull off at a parking area or roadside stop. Keep your children busy by putting toys, books, or anything to keep them quiet in the backseat.
Using Earphones or Earbuds
Just like using mobile phones while driving, earphones or earbuds are not a good idea either. Aside from keeping your mind off the road, using one will disrupt your hearing.
You might not hear the honk of another vehicle or an ambulance siren.
Most cars have wireless technology and USB ports where you can connect your mobile phone to the car’s stereo system. There’s really no reason to use an earphone while driving.
Adjusting Your GPS
While using navigation apps on your phone is convenient, it can also be distracting. That’s the reason why popular navigation apps like Waze can detect if the user is driving.
Looking for nearby restaurants, cafes, or gas stations in the middle of the road can cause accidents, even if your eyes will just be off the road for a few seconds.
Before traveling, make sure to set the navigation system. In case you need to make changes on your route, you need to pull over.