Is taking a sip of coffee from a travel mug during your morning commute a dangerous distraction? Unfortunately, even though drinking while behind the wheel is commonplace – whether it is coffee, a soda or a bottle of water – the activity is a distraction to drivers. Likewise, there are numerous activities that are second-nature while behind the wheel that could lead to motor vehicle collisions with severe, even deadly, consequences.
While most drivers would agree that certain activities such as having a text conversation and manipulating a GPS navigation system while driving represent serious distractions, there are other activities that are just as threatening:
- Dining and driving: While taking a drink has already been mentioned, drivers are also in the habit of eating while behind the wheel. Eating breakfast on the way to class or grabbing a drive-thru dinner on the way home from work are such common activities that no one considers them a distraction. Unfortunately, these actions take the eyes off the road, the hands off the wheel and the attention away from driving.
- Talking to passengers: While cell phone conversations have historically received the brunt of any warning messages, having passengers in the car can be just as distracting to drivers. In fact, the label of passenger can not only refer to adult passengers riding next to the driver but also children or even pets. Any interaction that pulls attention from the road is, by definition, a distraction.
- Audio system: Whether listening to loud music or focusing on an engrossing podcast, auditory distractions pose a serious problem for drivers. One study found that 20% of drivers listening to a playlist of their own creation needed some sort of physical intervention to prevent an imminent accident.
Driving distractions are often categorized as visual distractions, manual distractions and cognitive distractions. Many activities, such as texting, overlap several categories. Unfortunately, distractions of any type can pull a driver’s attention from the road making him or her unsafe to those sharing the road. A distracted driving accident can result in serious injuries requiring surgery, a hospital stay or lengthy physical therapy.