Distracted driving refers to any activity you can do while driving that takes your attention away from the road in front of you, even if only for a few seconds. This not only refers to talking on the phone or sending text messages; it can also be putting on makeup, eating, being distracted with passengers, using some other electronic device and/or being distracted with the controls of the car, among others.
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration) statistics, distracted driving is the leading cause of approximately 920,000 traffic accidents, 3,000 deaths, and about 280,000 people injured each year in the United States.
Distraction can present itself in different ways. Here are some of them:
- Visual distractions. It refers to when your eyes stop seeing the road. It can be by checking your cell phone, talking with a child or passenger who travels in the back of the car, seeing the landscape, etc. Taking your eyes off the front prevents you from seeing the movements that other drivers may make and therefore responding quickly and appropriately.
- Manual distractions. In this type of distraction, your hands stop holding the steering wheel, which takes time to maneuver immediately if necessary. Some manual distractions can be eating, using the radio controls, sending text messages, having a drink, among others.
- Cognitive distractions. Cognitive distractions refer to when your mind is not fully focused on driving, when you may be thinking about other things that worry you or when you are going through strong emotions, stress, or fatigue. When our mind wanders, we run the risk of doing things as on automatic pilot, without really registering what is happening around us, and, therefore, it prevents us from reacting in time.
Taking care of everything necessary before driving and avoiding using electronic devices and car controls can save not only your life but also the lives of others.