Distracted driving is one of the most common occurrences globally and is one of the leading reasons for road traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. According to the released data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one in eight people die due to a distracted driver in the United States every single day. These numbers are alarming and have raised concerns in the public and the authorities.
Every now and then, new laws and regulations are implemented to tackle this issue, but unfortunately, even these actions have not been very effective. It has been reported that up to 14% of all motor vehicle accidents in the United States involve distracted drivers. A report by the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in 2019, 3,142 people died in automobile crashes involving distracted drivers in the United States.
What is Distracted Driving?
The term itself is relatively self-explanatory. Distracted driving means driving while your attention is diverted while on the road due to some activity, visual stimulus, or audio stimulus. Distractions can be categorized into three categories; visual distractions, manual distractions, and cognitive distractions.
Visual distractions are when your eyes are not on the road and where you are going. A manual distraction is one where you are driving but also simultaneously using your hands for another task, such as texting. Cognitive distractions lead you to lose focus from the road and diverts your attention. Many tasks and objects can be a mix of multiple types of distractions.
What Are Some Common Distractions?
When talking about visual distractions, the most common and obvious distraction is cell phones. The National Safety Council reported that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Receiving and reading a text message can cause the driver to take their eyes off the road. Videos or images on the phone might also distract drivers. Some outside distractions can be roadside banners, billboards, or roadside attractions.
Sometimes bad weather conditions or glare from the sun can act as a visual distraction. In such cases, you should wait to drive until the visibility has improved, and the weather has cleared. In case of glares, car visors and sunglasses can be effective in mitigating that.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about taking the hands off the wheel is texting. People will often be texting or calling someone while driving, which forces them to take one or both of their hands off of the steering wheel. In such cases, the driver has less control over the vehicle and is more likely to crash if an obstacle comes up.
Other manual distractions can be if someone drops something in the car while in the driving seat and tries to reach for it. While driving, holding food or a drink in a hand is also relatively dangerous.
If someone travels with a pet, they might take their hands off the wheel to pet it or stop it from touching items in the car. This is a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction.
Another common distraction that people might not think of is when the driver is fiddling with the buttons and controls in the car. If the driver is trying to set up the GPS or audio system or change the temperature control, they will probably take one hand off the wheel. All this should be done before driving as they are manual and cognitive distractions.
Attorney William Colarulo of Grungo Colarulo explains, “Cognitive distractions are very common, and often people don’t even realize it is happening. They will be sitting in the car and have their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, but their mind will be elsewhere. Then they will lose their focus. In this case, their reaction time will become longer, which can be dangerous. You need to actively make sure you’re being attentive while driving, otherwise a momentary mistake can lead to disastrous consequences.”
Passengers can serve as cognitive distractions as well. If you are involved in a conversation with the person in the car, you might lose focus on the road and start paying more attention to the conversation at hand. Another such distraction can be loud music in the car.
Another cognitive distraction is intense emotions, such as sadness or anger. These things will cloud your judgment and cause you to pay more attention to the problem, rather than the road. This means that you will be distracted while you drive. This is why you must avoid driving in an emotional state. Sleepiness or drowsiness also acts as cognitive distractions for drivers.
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