There are many ways we can compromise our safety behind the wheel with distracted driving habits, which includes, “any activity that takes a driver’s attention off of the road.”
Most of these distractions we already know about. Winer, Burritt, & Scott, LLP list some of the most common distractions as:
- Talking on a cell phone while driving
- Texting while driving
- Using an app while driving
- Using a GPS while driving
- Taking videos while driving
- Eating while driving
However, there are plenty of other ways you could compromise your safety while you’re driving and you might not even know it.
1. Talking on the Phone Hands-Free
We have all heard how important it is to avoid texting while driving. Many of us understand that talking on the phone can be a problem too, which is why many people turn to hands-free methods of speaking. Unfortunately, using the speakerphone, your car’s Bluetooth, or an earpiece is just as bad as drunk driving.
It’s thought that hands-free talking is dangerous because there is more cognitive effort included in speaking to someone on a device than when you can’t see them. It’s also possible that passengers in the seat next to you can respond to what’s happening on the road, while someone on the other end of the line cannot.
The moral of the story is that you should put down your phone while you’re driving, whether you’re talking, using Bluetooth, or texting.
2. Mental Distractions
Did you know nothing needs to be going on in the car at all in order for you to be distracted? Your brain can do a good job of distracting you without any outside help.
One study found that some drivers allow their minds to wander up to 70 percent of the time behind the wheel. You could be thinking about anything from the things you still have to do at work to replaying an important conversation or running through the items you need to pick up at the grocery store.
Whether positive or negative, the more engrossing your thoughts, the less you’ll pay attention to the road, and the more likely you are to find yourself in an accident. Encourage yourself to pay more attention while you’re driving by taking new routes to and from a frequent destination, like work.
3. Conversation in the Car
It’s true that talking to passengers in the car is much less dangerous than talking to someone on the phone, even if you’re using a hands-free device, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Passengers have the potential to distract you from the road too.
Serious or engrossing conversations are more likely to be distracting than lighter conversations. Passengers can be especially dangerous for teens. Just one passenger can increase a teen’s risk of getting into an accident by 44 percent.
Fewer passengers are always better the younger you are, and calmer passengers are always best, no matter what your age. That means leaving reprimands for rowdy kids until you pull the car over.
4. Looking at the Scenery
The scenery can cause problems while you’re driving as well. In some cases, nature is the culprit, as leaves turning colors in the fall, rivers, and other natural wonders can cause you to veer off the road.
Sometimes it isn’t beauty that distracts you. It could be a dead animal on the road or another car accident that pulls your eyes off of the road in front of you. No matter what’s happening outside the car, if you’re paying more attention to it than driving, you are compromising your safety.
5. Listening to Music
Some drivers believe that listening to music can help increase their alertness behind the wheel, especially if you’re tired. However, the truth is that listening to music can be a form of distraction as well.
Loud music is worse than soft music, and the type of music you listen to matters too. Easy listening, and even pop music, can help keep your attention on the road better than death metal. It also matters whether you’re fully engaged in singing along or if it’s more like elevator music that’s playing in the background.
Don’t forget that turning the channel can be distracting, especially if you’re skipping songs on your phone! Pick a station and stick to it until you pull over.
6. Drinking a cup of coffee
Believe it or not, but there are a lot of people that take their cup of coffee with them in their car and to work. Usually, they do this because they do not have a lot of time to get ready in the morning and to eat a proper breakfast. Drinking the coffee during the drive to work makes sense, right? You are traveling to work while getting your dose of caffeine for the day.
It may make sense at first, however, it is extremely dangerous to do this. Just like any of the other distractions that were mentioned in this article, combining this activity with driving at the same time requires mental focus and good hand-eye coordination
To many, the idea of drinking your coffee while driving is a harmless act, but it takes the eyes and minds off the road which is the worst possible thing anyone can do. Even that short split second to take the lid off the cup can be the cause of a serious accident. Things get even more dangerous if the coffee is still very hot. Just a drop on your shirt or pants can burn you. The pain from the burn might cause you to make sudden movements with your car that will cause an incident.
Texting and driving is a huge issue behind the wheel, but it isn’t the only thing that can distract you. Now that you know all about these surprising distractions, you can start removing these habits from your life and start being more dedicated to your drive. Always keep in mind that you are in a metal box that weighs well over a ton. That kind of weight can do a lot of damage. Drive responsibly and stay safe.