7 Driving Distractions and How To Drive Smarter

7 Driving Distractions and How To Drive Smarter

Each day, around eight individuals in the U.S. are killed in accidents where a distracted driver was involved, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Distracted driving occurs when you’re driving while performing another activity that causes you to take your attention away from driving. It can increase your risk of a vehicle accident or crash.

So, what can be considered a distraction to you while you are driving? 

7 Distractions While Driving

Things that take your attention away from your driving can be distractions that may cause a collision. Seven examples of common distractions on the road are:

1. Cell Phones

Cell phone use, particularly texting while driving is one of the most common distractions and creates a huge possibility for injuries and death on roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 3,142 individuals were killed in 2019 in motor vehicle accidents that involved distracted drivers.

2. Driving While Sad or Angry

Have you ever felt mad or distressed while you were driving? This is not good. One large-scale study published by NHTSA recently involving 1,600 crash events over a three-year period showed observably sad, angry, or agitated drivers had an increased risk of being involved in a crash or accident by almost tenfold.  That’s why it’s wise to take a little time to allow yourself to cool down before you get behind the wheel. 

3. Your Dog

A survey from AAA found 84% of respondents claimed they have driven with their pets. But, only 16% claimed they use a type of pet restraint while traveling in the vehicle with their dogs. Now, in contrast, 17% claimed they allowed their dog to actually sit on their lap while they drove the vehicle, and 13% claimed they fed their dog or gave them treats. To avoid distractions as well as keep your pet safe if you should crash, you’ll want to be sure you place your pet in a backseat-friendly kennel or seat before hitting the road.

4. Eating and Drinking

Other outside distractions while driving are eating and drinking. Your hot cup of coffee spills in your lap, or you have some of your sandwich’s ingredients spill out — these and other distractions can occur when you’re driving and dining. Save your meals and refreshments for when you’re parked, so you stay safe behind the wheel. 

One poll showed 70% of 1,000 surveyed drivers claimed they eat or drink while they drive. Between possible burns, spills, and slippery driver’s wheel, individuals, according to the study, increase their chances of an accident by 80%.

5. Children

Researchers say children passengers in vehicles can be four times more distracting and infants eight times more distracting than adults. One particular researcher reinforced this when they found the average parent looks away from the road while driving for three minutes and 22 seconds during a trip that lasts 16 minutes.

6. Hands-Free Technology

Another study reported by The University of Utah found sending an email or text with voice commands or talking through a speakerphone isn’t less distracting than using your smartphone manually. After you’ve completed making the voice commands, you stay distracted for another 27 or so seconds as you’re readjusting to road mode. This leads to the potential of you not noticing things like: 

  • Pedestrians
  • Signs
  • Other vehicles

7. Personal Grooming

When pressed for time, certain individuals conduct their grooming tasks in their vehicle, like using an electric shaver or putting their makeup on. One law firm reported that out of the 27% of women between the ages of 17 and 21 who admitted to applying makeup were driving, 9% were involved in a driving accident.  Don’t leave your grooming tasks for the drive to work; complete your morning routine at home. 

While you can avoid most distractions, certain distractions are impossible to prevent; you must manage them instead. You need your full attention when you drive. You can take charge of removing distractions so that you can focus better on the road.

Steps to Drive Smarter

Pet in Car

Steps you can take to drive smarter are:

1. Keep Pets and Kids Safe

Ensure your children are appropriately secured in their car seats, and your pets are secured in their zone in the back of your car. When pets aren’t allowed to roam about your vehicle, it helps reduce distractions.

2. Plan Your Route Before Leaving

If you try to program your navigation system while driving, this can lead to you taking your eyes off the road. You’ll want to ask a passenger to do it for you. If there isn’t a passenger, then either plug in your destination before leaving your home or pull over and plug it in.

3. Don’t Multitask

You should only be doing one thing when on the road — drive. You shouldn’t ever multitask while you’re driving. This includes:

  • Video chatting
  • Texting
  • Posting on social media

4. Don’t Use Your Phone While You’re Driving

If you need to make a phone call, pull over safely and make your call. Keep in mind, hands-free phones aren’t any safer and could lead to an accident.

5. Keep Your Eyes on the Road

You should always keep your eyes on the road when you’re driving and avoid looking at things like eye-catching billboards or cool-looking buildings. It’s suggested you move your eyes every couple of seconds and scan your vehicle mirrors every five to eight seconds.

6. Speak With Your Employer

Taking calls or responding to texts for work while you’re driving can be dangerous. Ask your employer to put a “distracted driving policy” in place, if they don’t already have one, and include waiting to talk with staff until they are parked safely” in the policy.

7. Set Road Rules

You might want to restrict how many passengers your teenager can have in their vehicle until they’ve gained experience driving.

8. Speak Up

If you notice another person texting or engaging in distracted driving in some manner, speak up and let them know you’re not comfortable with this behavior. 

9. Practice Smart Snacking

If possible, eat snacks and meals before you get in the vehicle to drive. If you must eat while on the road, pull over safely and do so.

10. Store Items 

Store loose possessions, gear, and other distractions that might end up rolling around in your vehicle, making you feel tempted to reach and grab them off the seat or floor.

As a general rule, if you can’t keep your full attention to your driving due to some other activity, this is a distraction and can be dangerous. Take care of distractions before or after your trip, not while you’re driving.

Last but not least, be sure you are covered by a comprehensive auto insurance policy, so you are protected in case you’re involved in an automobile accident as a result of a distracted driver.