Public awareness has never been higher about distracted driving than it is right now. Between awareness campaigns with radio ads and billboards and popular media featuring stories about people hurt in distracted driving crashes, the risks are about as well-known as the risks of drunk driving.
Unfortunately, unlike drunk driving, there isn’t one single bad decision that leads to distracted driving crashes. Simply putting down your phone doesn’t necessarily ensure that you will avoid a distracted driving wreck. Distraction at the wheel actually encompasses many activities beyond looking down at your phone or typing a text message.
Distraction comes in three different forms
To safely drive, you need to focus your full attention on the road around you and your vehicle. Anything that will affect how you respond to changes in traffic conditions is potentially a distraction.
Visual distraction might involve rubbernecking as you drive past a car crash or trying to make eye contact with someone in the backseat using the rearview mirror. Taking your eyes off of the control panel or the road in front of you, even for a few seconds, can mean that you miss crucial information.
Manual distraction is also a big concern. You need both hands on the wheel to have control of your vehicle. If you take one or both hands off of the wheel to take a sip of coffee, adjust your radio settings or reach for something in the passenger seat, you will require more time to respond to a change in traffic.
Cognitive or internal distraction is probably the hardest kind to prove because it can occur at any time. If you call loved ones and get into intense conversations during your daily commute, your brain will focus more on the conversation than on your safety, especially if you become emotional. Do you daydream about the upcoming weekend or mentally plan for the workday ahead? If you focus on anything other than your safety and traffic, a crash could ultimately be the result.
Driving demands the full commitment of your attention
The only way to ensure that you arrive safely at your destination is to make safety your absolute priority when driving. Even if you spend several hours in the car commuting every week, it is not safe to multitask at the wheel.
Avoiding these behaviors is a good step toward improving your road safety. You will also want to watch other drivers for signs of distraction, like a phone in their hands, so that you can give more space to people engaged in unsafe driving practices. Understanding that more than just phone use can lead to allegations of distracted driving can reduce your risk of causing a serious motor vehicle crash.