While everyone agrees that sending a text or manipulating a navigation system while driving can represent a dangerous distraction, there are numerous other activities that might not be so obvious. Some activities only last a brief moment or two while some are so commonplace that they are not considered hazardous. In fact, any activity that pulls a driver’s eyes, hands or attention from the primary task can be said to be a distraction.
In general, distractions can be grouped into three categories:
- Visual distractions: These activities pull a driver’s eyes from the road. Reading a text, for example, or looking in the back seat for a pair of warm driving gloves in cold weather could be considered visual distractions.
- Manual distractions: These activities force a driver to take his or her hands off the steering wheel. Adjusting the settings of the sound system, for example, or shaving while behind the wheel are considered manual distractions.
- Cognitive distractions: This group of activities might not be measurable, but entails a driver taking his or her attention away from the task at hand. Getting lost in a daydream is a common example of a cognitive distraction.
There are numerous actions that clearly fall into these categories, however, there are several activities that are distracting but might not be recognized as such.
- Dining and driving: Drivers are so accustomed to having a sip of coffee, a gulp of water or a bite from dinner while behind the wheel that they no longer see it as the distraction it is. In truth, these activities can cover two or more distraction categories at the same time.
- An upbeat song: Not only do drivers turn up the volume on their favorite tune, they might also drum along to the beat against the steering wheel and sing. So excited are these drivers that they might begin speeding and lose sight of hazards in their environment.
- Pets and children: Having passengers in the vehicle is nothing new, but your level of interaction with these occupants can be dangerous. If you are handing snacks to your children in the backseat or petting your dog to show comfort, you are not only removing your hand from the steering wheel, but your focus is clearly removed from the task at hand.
Drivers must always remain attentive. The loss of focus on the road makes a crowded highway or a busy city street a dangerous place. Accidents caused by distracted drivers can result in catastrophic injuries. In the most severe instances, the collision can be fatal.