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Tips for spotting distracted drivers

It is human nature to avoid those who act dangerously or recklessly. While these actions are easy to identify in public, the job becomes more difficult when encountering distracted drivers on the road. While they cannot control what other drivers do, they can better stay out of danger when they quickly recognize the danger signs that the driver in front of you, next to you or even behind you is distracted.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted drivers caused the death of 3,142 people in 2019 (the most recent year with complete data) and countless other crashes and close calls. These distractions can be visual (not looking at the road), cognitive (not paying attention to their actions), or manual (hands off the steering wheel to eat or drink).

Red flags that the diver is not paying attention

Give a wide berth to drivers who exhibit these common behaviors:

  • Not staying in lane: The road may seem straight, but vehicles need constant micro-adjustments to stay centered in the lane. In severe cases, some drivers may involuntarily veer if something besides driving catches their attention. It may also be a sign that they are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Improper speed: Those not paying attention to the job of driving may inadvertently speed up or slow down as they focus on something besides driving. It can happen even when they remain in their lane.
  • Holding a device: Those holding their hand up to their ear are likely talking on the phone, but it could be a situation where they are gesturing or talking animatedly in an empty vehicle using hands-free technology. In the latter case, the driver is still distracted.
  • Looking down: This is the telltale sign that drivers are checking their device, changing the stereo selection or adjusting the climate control. Safety-conscious drivers can identify this behavior in other drivers at traffic lights or in nearby vehicles.

Defensive driving saves lives

Drivers can familiarize themselves with these behaviors, allowing them to identify the telltale signs in other drivers and themselves. This more defensive approach can go a long way towards saving the lives of drivers, their passengers and perhaps even those distracted drivers.

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