Most Common Driving Distractions

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Driving requires your full-time attention and concentration. Nowadays, with so many people on the road, even the slightest distraction can lead to an accident. If you drive frequently, you’re at greater risk of being involved in or causing an accident due to being guilty of common driving distractions that take your focus off the road.  

Distracted driving poses a risk of accidents to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road. By being aware of some of the most common driving distractions, you can avoid making mistakes that can lead to becoming a casualty on the road or otherwise causing a wreck.

For the most part, driving distractions can be classified into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Here are a few examples of each.

Visual Distractions

Visual driving distractions are those that cause you to take your eyes off the road. You may get distracted as you reach for something in the car or try to adjust the radio. Or you may get distracted by someone or something outside the car as you’re driving by.

Even a momentary distraction can be hazardous as it causes you to lose track of what’s happening in front of you on the road. The following are some examples of visual driving distractions:

  • Checking your GPS for driving instructions
  • Changing a music CD or fiddling with the radio station
  • Looking for something that dropped on the floor of your vehicle
  • Adjusting AC or heating temperature controls
  • Rubbernecking (gawking at something or someone outside while driving by)
  • Taking in scenic views instead of focusing on the road
  • Petting or fussing with your pet

Manual Distractions

Many people get distracted by trying to do something else while driving. Multi-tasking while driving can be a recipe for disaster. Some of the most common manual driving distractions include the following:

  • Putting on lipstick or makeup
  • Smoking
  • Eating or drinking
  • Looking for something in your wallet or purse
  • Adjusting your seat belt

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive driving distractions occur when your mind wanders as you drive. Daydreaming is perhaps the most common cognitive distraction while driving. Approximately 62 percent of the accidents caused by distracted driving are due to daydreaming. Other cognitive distractions include the following:

  • Talking or listening to someone on a cell phone
  • Texting
  • Talking to other people in the car
  • Road rage
  • DUI
  • Driving when you’re upset

There’s no doubt that distracted driving is dangerous and can cause accidents that lead to serious injuries and death. According to recent estimates, approximately 25 percent of car accident fatalities are due to common driving distractions.

About 12 percent of distracted driving accidents are due to cell phone use. This includes reaching for a cell phone, answering a call, carrying on a conversation and listening to others on the phone. Many drivers have developed the bad habit of texting while driving, which can be even more dangerous as it takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off of driving.

Surprisingly, however, cell phone use isn’t the number one cause of distracted driving. Daydreaming or being “lost in thought” causes more fatal accidents than any other distraction. When your mind wanders, you can lose track of where you are, how fast you’re driving, and where you’re going. From fender-benders in parking lots to collisions on major highways, daydreaming poses a risk of harming you, your passengers, and anyone in your path.

There are dozens of causes for distracted driving—none of which should be accepted as “normal.” Although almost everyone has been guilty of distracted driving at some time or another, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to continue business as usual. By changing bad habits that keep you from focusing on your driving, you can stay safer on the road.