Your phone beeps in the center console while you’re driving home from work. It’s a text from your best friend. Do you instinctively reach to grab it? Though checking your phone is a simple task, it can have fatal consequences when behind the wheel.
Each day in the United States, car accidents caused by distracted driving are blamed for nine deaths and over 1,153 injuries. Driving distractions that take your attention away from the task of driving can be broken down into three main types: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a visual distraction. Glancing at your phone, gazing too long at the GPS, or looking at your kids in the back seat are all visual distractions that affect your ability to drive. Always keep your eyes on the road. Reading or responding to a text can wait!
A manual distraction moves your hands off the wheel. Texting, eating, drinking, adjusting your mirrors, fumbling around in your bag, messing with your GPS, and smoking are all manual distractions. Texting is especially prevalent and dangerous; recent studies have found texting riskier than driving while mentally distracted or upset.
A cognitive distraction happens when your mind is not focused on driving. Getting behind the wheel when you’re upset, drowsy, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol can drastically impair your driving. Drowsy driving accounts for 1 in 5 car crash deaths.
To avoid distracted driving, stay alert behind the wheel by:
- Challenging yourself to not check your phone before reaching your destination
- Not wearing headphones or listening to music too loud while driving so you can hear emergency vehicle sirens and car horns from other drivers
- Using a GPS mount and pulling over to read directions
- Adjusting all mirrors and seats before driving
- Avoiding multitasking activities like eating, applying makeup, or making phone calls while driving
- Not driving when emotional or drowsy