What is Distracted Driving and How to Avoid It

By  //  October 1, 2019

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving is responsible for over one thousand injuries and nine fatalities in the US per day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving is responsible for over one thousand injuries and nine fatalities in the US per day.

These days, texting while driving is the most common form of distraction for distracted drivers.  However, please note that there are many more apparently innocent and mundane tasks that put people under threat while driving.

Though all of us understand what causes distracted driving, the science behind its real causes is a little more complex. The latest studies in neuroscience confirm that a high level of brainpower is required for driving. Not only does it require processing loads of visual information such as road conditions, other drivers, and street signs, drivers are also required to perform a series of essential functions including predicting and reacting to how the other drivers drive their vehicle. Driving also demands that the drivers are able to coordinate the activity of their hands on the steering wheel with the activity of their foot on the brake, gas, and clutch.

In addition to the driving-related tasks, drivers are also seen engaged in unnecessary multi-tasking activities such as talking to a passenger, taking a sip of coffee, switching radio stations, etc. These additional activities can significantly reduce the capacity of the brain to handle functions that are essential for driving.   

Categories of Distracted Driving:

Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging classifies distracted driving into three different categories.

Cognitive Distractions: These are distractions that result in drifting of mental focus while driving and it includes

  • Talking on the phone or to passengers in the car.
  • Paying attention to a pet or child while driving the car.
  • Driving in an angry or upset state of mind.
  • Remaining lost in some thought while driving.
  • Thinking about work or home problems.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Hands-free voice texting or talking on the phone.

Visual distractions: These distractions result in shifting of focus from the road. Examples include

  • Changing the music or radio station on the car stereo
  • Looking at a map on a GPS device
  • Adjusting the temperature controls for heating or air conditioning.
  • Searching for items in the back seat or on the floor of the car.
  • Looking at activities off the road.
  • Scrolling through apps, social media, or emails.

Manual Distractions: These are distractions that result in the driver taking one or both hands off the steering wheel of the vehicle.

  • Drinking, eating, or smoking while driving.
  • Searching for items in the wallet.
  • Securing the seatbelt.
  • Reaching for cellphones, CDs, food, water, and other items.
  • Talking or texting without a hands-free device.

Ways to Avoid Distracted Driving

Please remember that driving demands your complete attention. Most of the driving related distractions are avoidable, and others can also be managed.

  • Focus completely on driving and don’t allow anything to divert your attention.
  • Adjust all your vehicle-related systems such as seats, GPS, sound systems, climate controls, and mirrors before hitting the road.
  • Avoid taking food or drinks while driving.
  • Secure your pets and children before you start driving.
  • Complete personal grooming and dressing at home.
  • Don’t allow any type of electronic distractions. Never use a mobile phone, video games, or any other similar distraction while driving.
  • Avoid driving in disturbed mental state.
  • If something genuinely requires your attention, pull off the road and park your vehicle in a safe place.
  • Never drive your car under the influence of alcohol or drugs.   
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