The Most Common Distracted Driver Behaviors
Distracted drivers cause an average eight deaths per day across the United States—and even more severe injuries. Distracted driving, however, does not justify checking your cell phone while driving. While studies suggest that an average 7% of drivers are using their phones at any given moment on the road, other distracting behaviors can prove just as risky. Unfortunately, all too many drivers do not even recognize the severity of their actions. They may assume that, since they put their cell phones away, they can safely navigate the road.
Driving distractions, however, can occur in several forms. Distractions can be manual, which involves taking your hands off the wheel; cognitive, which means taking your attention off the road; or visual, which means taking your eyes off the road. Distracted drivers may struggle to note things going on around them, completely missing out on potential hazards. Most distracted drivers will not have adequate time to respond to a pending accident. A driver engaging in any of these behaviors could suffer severe distraction.
1. Eating or Drinking Behind the Wheel
Many drivers think nothing of eating or drinking behind the wheel. After all, they just have to grab a few fries out of the bag, or take a drink of that milkshake or smoothie before it melts. Some people even choose to save time on their other daily activities by eating or drinking behind the wheel instead of stopping for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Eating and drinking, however, can take both eyes and hands off of the task of driving, which may result in substantial distraction. Messy foods, or those that involve more hand-eye coordination to eat—trying to eat with a fork or spoon, for example—can further increase driver distraction.
2. Changing Music
Many modern cars come with more features for music than ever. You can connect to countless radio stations through satellite radio, use your phone to stream any music in your collection, or use CDs. Unfortunately, those added features may also come with added distractions. You may find yourself flipping through songs, watching the screen on your vehicle and ignoring the road while looking for the perfect song for your mood. Often, changing music can take your attention from the road longer than intended.
3. Using a GPS Device
GPS technology makes driving more convenient than ever. You no longer have to deal with clunky paper directions or hope that you can reach your destination based on vague instructions from friends. You do not even have to check a map! Unfortunately, that technology can also pose a significant distraction on the road. Many drivers do not set their GPS until they realize they no longer know which way to turn. Others may pay more attention to the GPS than they do to the road, checking drive times, looking for heavy traffic ahead, or considering the next turn in the route. Drivers who want to avoid distraction should make a habit of programming their GPS devices before they leave for their trips. If you need to change your GPS mid-trip, pull off the road into a safe place before making those changes.
4. Conversations with Passengers
Often, a conversation with a passenger can prove a lot more engaging than driving, especially on a familiar route. Looking at a passenger, however, means that the driver is not looking at the road.
Children can prove an even more serious distraction behind the wheel. Often, parents will turn around to deal with a distraction in the backseat: bickering or misbehaving children, for example, or a young child who has dropped a much-needed item for the trip. That distraction, however, can take your attention off the road long enough to lead to a severe accident.
Ideally, drivers should keep their attention on the road, not on passengers in the vehicle. The challenges associated with passenger distractions have led many states to pass laws requiring young drivers to have no more than a single passenger in the vehicle at any given moment.
5. Dealing with Pets
Some pets will sit patiently in their seats in the vehicle throughout the duration of the trip. Others, however, may climb all over the vehicle. Simply having a moving pet in the vehicle can pose a potent distraction for many drivers, who may turn to make sure their pet has not gotten into trouble. Other times, pets may crawl all over the driver, bumping into the hand on the wheel or even climbing into the driver’s lap. Frequently, pets pose a visual challenge to the driver: not just a distraction, but an actual barrier to the road.
To keep yourself and your pets safe on the road, make sure you secure your pets properly, in a crate or with a seatbelt, before heading off on your journey.
6. Personal Grooming
Brushing your hair, checking something in your teeth, or even putting on makeup: all of these behaviors take your attention and your eyes off of the road. Often, personal grooming tasks also remove your hands from the wheel, which may significantly decrease your ability to safely control the vehicle. Personal grooming tasks should wait until you reach your destination, even if you believe you have time in relatively low traffic.
In addition to the other, more obvious distractions drivers often face on the road, drivers may face one challenge that comes primarily from within: daydreaming. Daydreaming, or getting lost in your own thoughts, can present a potent cognitive distraction that may prevent you from keeping track of what other drivers do around you. Keeping your attention on the road, rather than on your own thoughts, can go a long way toward preventing accidents.
To help reduce your personal accident risk, focus on the road while driving, rather than allowing distractions to creep in. If you note dangerous driving behaviors, including distracted driving around you, you may want to change your route or pull off the road to avoid those drivers. Did you suffer an accident on the road due to the actions of a distracted driver? Contact Gina Corena & Associates to learn more about your right to compensation.