Managing Distractions While Driving

Managing Distractions While Driving

Distractions while driving are inevitable. While we can choose to keep our mobile phones tucked away or skip the drive-thru for a quick meal, there are distractions that are beyond our control. What if a bee enters your car? What if your child suddenly gets sick in the back seat? What if an attractive person walks by and you can't help but look?

Understanding the Types and Sources of Driving Distractions

Distractions can come from various directions while you're driving. To effectively handle these, it's crucial to understand their types and sources. Distractions can be:

  • Visual: When your eyes are taken off the road
  • Auditory: When a noise unrelated to driving diverts your attention
  • Manual: When your hands leave the steering wheel to do something else
  • Cognitive: When your mind is preoccupied with other thoughts, reducing your focus on driving

These distractions can pose a risk to you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. But what triggers these distractions? There's no single source. Common sources include:

  • Your vehicle: Indicator lights, control panel symbols, navigation systems
  • Items in your car: Food, pets, electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets, or laptops
  • External environment: Signs, displays, billboards, surrounding scenery, roadside features
  • Your thoughts: Ongoing concerns, daydreams, or being lost in thought

One particular distraction that significantly diverts attention from driving is texting.

The Risk of Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is a significant concern as it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention, all of which should be focused on the road. This also applies to using your mobile phone for other activities, like browsing social media when stuck in traffic.

According to a 2021 survey by The Zebra, 16.2% of drivers admitted to texting while driving. Although this is a slight decrease from 2020, it's still a substantial number. Distracted driving, particularly due to texting and mobile phone usage, contributes significantly to traffic accidents. To address this, several states have launched awareness campaigns. In 2020, 29.4% of people were aware of their state's texting and driving laws, which increased to 31.6% in 2021.

Beyond being aware of current regulations about texting and driving, there are other things you can do to ensure your focus doesn't stray.

Just Drive & Be Mindful

Unintended driving distractions will occur regularly, but that doesn't mean you have to put yourself or others around you in danger. If something distracting happens, there's only one thing you've got to do. Drive. That's it – just drive and be mindful of your environment!

Reacting to Driving Distractions

In most car accidents involving unforeseen distractions, it's not the distraction that caused the accident. Rather, it's the way the driver reacted to that distraction. For instance, if a spider suddenly drops in front of your face while you're driving, your natural reaction might be to freak out. But remember, a spider isn't going to kill you. Hitting a tree or a school bus full of people, on the other hand, could be fatal.

The point is, no matter what happens, just drive! Don't worry about anything else until you can pull your car safely to the side of the road. That means using your turn signal, taking your time, double-checking blind spots, etc. As soon as you're pulled over, you can jump out of the car and wave your hands everywhere!

Controlling Driving Distractions

For the distractions we CAN control, let's use some common sense. Do we really need laws telling everyone it isn't OK to text and drive at the same time? It's all about using common sense and having a shred of self-control or willpower. If you lack self-control, turn off the ringer and lock the phone up in the glove box. Manage your time. If you have to fuss with the radio, can it wait until you're at a stoplight? If you have your dog in the car with you, use a humane restraint to minimize distractions. Please, don't risk your life, and don't risk mine. Control those distractions and just drive!

Enough Is Enough!

Too many lives are lost on our nation's roadways, simply because somebody took their eyes off the road for "just a second." Don't be fooled, It can happen to you, either because of your driving or because of somebody else's driving. As a driver, I've seen all sorts of catastrophic accidents and most of them were completely avoidable, which all too often were because they either didn't have the willpower or know-how to properly handle driving distractions. Many of the deadly accidents I've seen occurred over pretty insignificant things like a dropped beverage, trying to eat and drive at the same time, texting while driving, etc. Just drive! A double quarter-pounder with cheese is not worth risking your life or my life.

Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Distracted!

When we think of distracted driving, we usually put all of the burdens onto individual drivers. Since individual drivers are the "captains of their own ships" the argument is completely acceptable. However, can't we as friends and family members also help? For instance, if you know a friend is on the way to your house but you have to leave for a few minutes, do you send a text? If you know your friend is driving, maybe you should leave a note on the door instead? While it ultimately is the driver's decision on whether or not to answer a text, we can all do our part by not offering the temptation. Help keep your friends safe, don't text when you know your friends are driving.

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