Cultural awareness about distracted driving is at an all-time high. Between coverage in popular media and awareness campaigns run by the federal safety organizations and state law enforcement groups, the average person now readily acknowledges that cell phone use at the wheel is a safety risk.
Texting, reading email or recording a video to post to social media are all things that should not happen while you are in control of a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, the focus on digital distraction means that people may have an inflated sense of their driving safety.
A dangerous number of people assume that as long as they don’t hold onto their phone or look down at it that they are safe to do anything else while they drive. However, distraction comes in many forms beyond just the digital ones.
Some distractions take your eyes off the road
Looking into the rearview mirror to make eye contact with a passenger, craning your neck to watch first responders at the scene of a crash or trying to read a flashy billboard could distract you from focusing visually on the task of driving. When you don’t actively monitor the road around you, circumstances can quickly change, and the delay in you noticing that change could mean a crash occurs.
Some distractions take your hands off the wheel
Whether you are reaching over to grab your coffee for a sip, buttoning your shirt for surfing through radio channels, taking one of your hands off the wheel will increase your reaction time.
The first instinct of someone presented with changing driving circumstances is to re-grip the wheel. You could lose a second or more if you need to re-establish your control over the wheel after taking your hands off of it, which might be all it takes for you to cause a wreck.
Some distractions take your mind off the road
Just because you don’t have it in your hands doesn’t mean that your phone isn’t still a source of distraction. If you hear notifications rolling in or if it starts ringing while you’re behind the wheel, your mind may focus more on your phone than on the task at hand.
The same is true for drivers who get into heated conversations with passengers or someone on the phone. Even daydreaming or thinking about the rest of your day at work could mean that you aren’t in the moment.
Any form of distraction is dangerous, you can see why this has become a focus. It involves all three kinds of distraction, but that should not detract from the risks involved with other kinds of driving distraction.
Keeping distractions to a minimum can help you prevent causing a crash. Knowing the many forms distraction takes can also help you advocate for yourself at the scene of a collision if you know the other driver was in the middle of a meal or a phone call when they hit you.