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Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has been a perpetual issue that has plagued our streets since the advent of automobiles, but with the addition of cell phones and ease of access to fast food, it is now a problem more than ever.

Three Types of Distractions

The amount of multitasking our society demands has created three separate categories that distracted driving to fall into: cognitive, visual, and manual. Cognitive distractions encompass the range of mental activities a driver can be involved in that take away from attention on the road, whether it be worrying about what to make for dinner, talking to a passenger, or even singing along to the radio, and unfortunately, these types of distractions are common and difficult to prevent. Visual distractions include anything that requires the driver to take their eyes off the road, such as checking seatbelts and looking at a cellphone or GPS. Manual distractions encompass activities that take one or both hands off the wheel, including struggling for a dropped phone or grabbing something quickly from a purse.

These distractions probably sound all too familiar – it’s not uncommon to look over at the driver at the neighboring lane and see their head down, staring at their iPhone. However, more often than not, we don’t have a direct line of sight into other vehicles, so it’s essential to keep your eyes peeled for warning signs of distracted driving.

According to police officers, these signs include:

  • Drivers going much faster or slower than the speed limit or flow of traffic
  • Drivers who change speed seemingly out of nowhere
  • Drivers who stop longer at traffic indicators such as stoplights or stop signs
  • Drivers who weave in and out of traffic
  • Drivers who drift within their lane

Protect Yourself

So, if you notice this behavior on the road, what should you do? Well, first, it is important to assume that the other driver isn’t aware of your vehicle; even if they do know you’re on the road, they clearly are not processing your presence in their immediate conscious mind, so it is just as important to give them a wide berth. You can achieve this by either moving over a lane in the highway, attempting to pass ahead of them, or slowing down to ensure you’re safely behind them. If you feel you and others sharing the roadway are in real danger, pull over to the side of the road and call 911. And remember there’s no need to be a vigilante – the police can take care of the situation and you’re much more likely to put yourself in danger.

Can We Prevent Distractions on the Road?

How do we prevent this type of behavior on the road? They say the first step to solving a problem is acceptance, and this is no exception for distracted driving. Only 17% of drivers will admit to talking or texting while driving but 80% of drivers are happy to point fingers, saying they’ve seen others partake in this behavior. Similar activities display the same dichotomy, with 5% of drivers admitting they’ve done their hair and makeup in the car versus 58% saying they’ve seen others do so, 3% versus 36% for reading a book or a newspaper, and 3% versus 28% for taking photos of themselves while driving. Owning up to the fact that you make mistakes just like other drivers will help you keep your full attention on the road – and with this in mind, we can keep our roads safer for drivers everywhere.

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