Distractions are everywhere, all the time – and you can’t even escape them in your car. Distractions contribute to countless motor vehicle accidents and thousands of deaths every year.
The often-painful reality is that many drivers don’t fully understand what exactly “distracted driving” means because some bad habits are very common. When something becomes normalized, it can cease to set off any kind of alarm bells in a driver’s mind. Learning more about the three forms distracted driving takes can help you be more aware of the potential dangers that are so important to avoid engaging in and that are important to be aware of in re: other vehicle operators.
A visual distraction is anything that causes you to divert your eyes from the road, even for a few seconds. The most common example (and the one often vilified in numerous jurisdictions) of a visual distraction is a cellphone. Taking your eyes off the road to read or send a text message, for example, may only take a few seconds, but it can have disastrous consequences for you and others. Other common visual distractions include in-car infotainment systems, navigation devices and flashing or animated roadside displays and billboards that automatically draw your eyes their way.
A coffee cup or soda is a common sight in vehicle cup holders, and nobody thinks much about it. However, you can’t drink (or eat) anything while you’re driving without taking at least one hand off the steering wheel, which reduces your ability to control the vehicle (especially in a sudden emergency). That drink is one type of manual distraction. Other common manual distractions include fishing around for something under your seat or in a bag, handing a fallen toy to your child in the back and trying to fix your hair or adjust your clothing while in motion.
When your mind is pulled away from the task of driving, that’s a cognitive distraction. While a call on your cellphone (even if you use a hands-free system) is certainly one common kind of cognitive distraction, so are heated conversations with your significant other, intense conversations with a good friend and just daydreaming. All of these can cause you to go on “autopilot” because your attention is actually being divided and the distraction may be more mentally engaging than the actual act of driving – especially when you’re in familiar territory.
Unfortunately, no matter what steps you take to avoid driving while distracted yourself, there’s no telling what other drivers will do. If you’re injured by a distracted driver, take the appropriate steps to protect your interests and get the compensation you’re due.