The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nine people are killed every day in distraction-caused crashes in the U.S. In fact, in 2015, vehicle accidents involving distracted driving were responsible for 391,000 injuries, 16% of total accident injuries, and 3,477 deaths, 10% of total accident fatalities.
Driving distractions include any actions, mental states, and influences that pull your attention from driving. While the use of mobile devices is the most well-known and deadly driving distraction, this use is not the only way you can become distracted while driving. Instead, make sure you and your drivers are aware of the manual, cognitive, and visual distractions that can take your attention from the road.
Manual distractions are those that require you to remove one or both of your hands from the steering wheel. These distractions often seem unimportant, but can easily cause dangerous situations. Common manual distractions include:
- Eating and drinking
- Adjusting mirrors, seat belts, and seat positions
- Choosing music options on a mobile device or using knobs and buttons to adjust the radio
- Smoking and vaping
- Searching for objects in your purse, bag, center console, or glovebox
The easiest way to avoid manual distractions is to prepare before you start driving. Train your drivers to make adjustments, find the music and items they want, and consume foods before or after they put the car in drive. It’s also a good practice to remind your drivers to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Even without distractions, one-handed driving during a situation like a tire blowout can quickly become dangerous.
Safe driving requires more cognitive awareness than we often realize, so it’s important to keep your full attention on the road at all times. Drivers are cognitively distracted if they are:
- Participating in conversations with passengers or over the phone
- Experiencing road rage
- Thinking about something important, upsetting, or confusing
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other mind-altering substances
- Driving while drowsy
To remain safe and protect the well-being of other drivers, you should always be fully aware of your surroundings and the current state of the road around you. Avoid cognitive distractions by keeping your focus on driving, staying off the road when emotional, and saving conversations for another time.
As you might guess, visual distractions are those that draw your eyes from the road. These are often the most obvious distractions, as you are usually aware when your eyes are away from the road and on something else. Some common visual distractions include:
- Checking GPS directions
- Adjusting settings in the car
- Looking over paperwork
- Taking in the view around you
- Looking for items in the car
- Checking on your passengers and cargo
- Looking at your phone
Like manual distractions, the best way to keep from being visually distracted is to do what you need to do before you start driving. Use the audio settings on your GPS, check your vehicle settings beforehand, and stop in a safe place to check your passengers and cargo. Unless it’s an emergency, it can wait.