By Mitch Rice
How much of your attention is on the road at any one time?
100%? Or is half your attention on that sandwich you’re eating… and if you’re like me, another 10% is thinking about what to have for dinner later. And then you reach for the climate control… is it hot in here?
Distracted driving can happen to anyone – and while it usually stems from momentary distractions it can have lifelong consequences.
Around 3000 people are killed in fatal accidents due to distracted driving, and another 400,000 people are injured. What’s more, one in five of these fatalities aren’t in the vehicle that crashes: distracted driving is a major killer of cyclists, pedestrians, and otherwise innocent bystanders.
While fiddling with your stereo or snacking on a drive-through meal might be habitual, anything that takes your attention from the road runs a big risk. At 60mph, a lot can happen in the blink of an eye.
The most common causes of distracted driving are:
- Getting Lost In Thought
- Using Your Cellphone
- External Events
- Your Passengers
- Eating And Drinking
- Adjusting The Stereo Or Air Con
- Adjusting Your Mirrors Or Seatbelt
- Dealing With Children And Pets
- Checking Your Sat Nav
- Smoking Cigarettes
- Applying Makeup
Types Of Distraction
Not all causes of distracted driving fall into the same category. For example, just because your eyes are watching the road doesn’t mean you aren’t slipping into distracted driving.
Being aware of the different types of distracted driving will help you stay safe on the road. Here are three ways you can be distracted when you’re behind the wheel.
- Visual Distraction. Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a visual distraction. If you’ve ever caught your own gaze in the rearview mirror and stopped to admire yourself, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
- Manual Distraction. Manual distractions are anything that takes your hands away from controlling the vehicle. Fiddling with the climate control or adjusting the stereo will distract your digits.
- Cognitive Distraction. Driving isn’t just about watching the road – you need to remain mentally alert to hazards and what’s happening up ahead. Even if your eyes are on the road and hands are at 10 and 2, if your mind’s elsewhere then you’re in serious danger.
Let’s explore the most common causes of distracted driving. Once you know the traps, you can keep all your attention on the road.
The 12 Most Common Causes Of Distracted Driving
Zoning out? It’s time to sit up and pay attention – because these are the 12 most common causes of distracted driving.
Getting Lost In Thought
The biggest danger on the road isn’t your cellphone or your dog being cute in the backseat. The depths of your own mind pose a greater risk. In two out of three accidents caused by distracted driving, the driver reported “zoning out” as the cause of the accident. If you notice your mind wandering, pull over.
Using Your Cellphone
Texting and driving is responsible for 400 fatal accidents each year and you’re 20 times more likely to crash if you’re texting. Once you add making calls and taking selfies to the statistics, cellphones are responsible for a shocking number of distracted driving incidents.
While you should always be paying attention to what’s going on around your vehicle, if you let anything take away too much of your attention then your mind’s no longer on the road. Rubbernecking – watching the scene of an accident unfold – is a classic external distraction. If it’s not a hazard, get your eyes back on the road.
Your passengers can be a source of assistance on the road – but they can also be a great source of distraction. Passenger distractions are responsible for 5% of distracted driving accidents and as the driver, you need to be empowered to tell your passengers to pipe down.
Eating And Drinking
Whether popping boiled sweets is your favorite road trip treat or you’re hitting the drive-through for a big old burger, eating and drinking on the road is a major distraction. Peeling a banana at the wheel is asking for a slip-up.
Adjusting The Stereo Or Air Con
Our vehicles are packed with more technology than ever and while you want to make the most of all those sweet features, sometimes they’re a distraction we can’t afford. One in fifty distracted driving accidents is caused by adjusting volume or climate control – so check the road before you turn it up.
Adjusting Your Mirrors Or Seatbelt
Adjusting the manual controls of our vehicle should be done before we move off – which explains why they account for only around one in one hundred distracted driving accidents. But that’s still too many – if your seatbelt is on too tight or your notice your mirrors aren’t angled right, pull over before making the adjustments.
Dealing With Children And Pets
Children and pets can be unpredictable at times. Whether it’s the cuteness of your darling child or your dog chowing down on the back seats, they can cause quite a stir. Plan ahead before you drive to ensure distractions remain at a minimum. Crating pets and keeping kids entertained is a must.
Checking Your Sat Nav
Nobody wants to take a wrong turn, but if your eyes are on your GPS then you could take a wrong turn all the way off the road. GPS devices are ubiquitous in the cab these days – they should be programmed before departure and positioned to ensure you can keep your eyes on the road.
Lighting up is responsible for around 1% of all distracted driving accidents, making it statistically significant enough to mention. Whether you’re reaching for a lighter or just enjoying a deep inhale, smoking will take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. Pull over for the smoke break.
Applying makeup while driving might be something you reach for in a rush, but one hand on the lip gloss and your eyes stealing glances in the rearview mirror make for trouble. Give yourself an extra five minutes in the morning.
For many of us, driving has become second nature. It’s our way to work, our most common mode of transport and we feel more at home in the car than, well, at home. That breeds a sense of complacency in the cab, a feeling of confidence and security that confounds our common sense. Watching out for that complacent feeling can keep your attention where it needs to be.
Identifying the causes of distracted driving will help you to plan ahead and avoid any risky behavior. Your wing mirrors and GPS can be fixed in advance so you aren’t messing with them on the main road.
Meanwhile, children, pets, and passengers can be informed of the risks and, as a driver, you can captain your ship with a firm hand to keep distractions at bay.
And while the buck for distracted driving stops with the driver, passengers and pedestrians can also play a part in ensuring drivers keep their eyes on the road.
But with over 400,000 injuries caused by distracted driving, it’s clear that it can happen to anything.