Distracted driving is an important issue that Mile High Driver Training takes seriously and is making efforts toward eliminating. Distracted driving is considered participation in anything that might divert your awareness and responsiveness away from the task at hand, and contributes to 8 deaths and 1,161 injuries daily in the United States. There is a growing worldwide movement towards awareness and preventative action; just look at the abundance of public service announcements advocating against distracted driving. Yet, approximately one in five car accidents resulting in an injury is the result of distracted driving. This is especially prevalent among young drivers. We all know that the vast majority of teenagers are glued to their phones. Add to that a sense of invincibility and a lack of driving experience, and you have one deadly mass of metal hurtling down the road. It has been documented that at 10%, teen drivers age 15-19 are the most frequent drivers involved in road fatalities reportedly caused by distracted driving. Texting and driving is not the only type or version of distracted driving. There are actually three classifications of driving distractions to which traffic safety efforts refer. These types are Manual, Visual, and Cognitive.
This is a pretty easily recognized driving distraction. Essentially, it entails using your hands for anything other than moving your steering wheel and turning on your blinker. Common manual distractions we are all guilty of are turning on the air conditioning or heat in our car, switching the station on the radio or controlling the sound, grooming, or adjusting our mirrors. We are also frequent offenders when it comes to reaching for and operating in-car navigation systems or adjusting seats. Eating and drinking while driving is another big mistake. Not only are you risking your life to a car accident, but also your white shirt to a coffee spill! Smoking or vaping is one more distraction that takes your hands off the wheel and mind off the road.
How to Avoid Manual Distractions
Avoiding manual distractions is almost so simple, it’s funny. Just make sure you do all of your adjustments before you pull out of your garage or parking spot. Pretty easy! Make certain mirrors are adjusted correctly, that you are comfortable in your seat, that the air temperature and music volume are to your liking, and that all GPS destinations are preset. And do your grooming at home in the bathroom like a civilized human being! If you are hungry, eat before you leave. Or eat inside the fast food restaurant, in the parking lot, or wait until you get to your destination.
Visual distractions occur when drivers take their eyes off the road. This happens when you choose to glance at a text or call, look at a map, look at other passengers, look for something in your car, or rubberneck at an accident. There are always external events taking place that will vie for your attention!
How to Avoid Visual Distractions
Keep your eyes on the road as long as you are moving your vehicle! If you have to find something ASAP, then wait until a stop light to glance around your car. Just be aware that the driver behind you will honk vigorously if you are not paying attention to the light change. And just like all the PSA’s say, no text is worth it. Lastly, don’t rubberneck. How would you like it if you were caught in some horrible accident and every person who passed by was slowly driving by and gawking at the scene? Not too great! Plus, it slows traffic down to a grinding halt and could cause another wreck.
This one, surprisingly, seems to actually be the hardest distraction to avoid. That is because it can sneak up on you without warning. Cognitive distractions, often referred to as mental distractions, occur when your mind stops focusing 100% on your current activity and wanders off and gets lost in other thoughts. This can happen simply from listening to the radio, speaking to a passenger sitting in the car, or thinking about troubling issues. Or perhaps it is as simple as day dreaming. Sometimes you become so neutral and acclimated to going through the motions that your brain flips on the autopilot and you lose your awareness. This can happen a lot if you drive the same route to work or school day after day. Other times drivers can experience a foggy trance state (highway hypnosis) from driving on long trips where you pass over miles and miles of mind numbing highway. This type of risky driving distraction is by far the most dangerous, with 62% of road fatalities attributed to it!
How to Avoid Cognitive Distractions
The best way to avoid accidentally slipping into a cognitive pitfall is to make a concrete effort to change your behavior. If you notice that you do this often, tell yourself each time you get in the car that you will remain focused. Even say it out loud! Then after the drive, check in with yourself. Did you stay focused? No? Then try again. Yes? Good! Do it again. If that’s not working, think about other factors that might be causing cognitive distractions. Maybe you are sleep deprived, need to turn off that enthralling but distracting audiobook, or perhaps you should talk to your therapist about your personal issue so it won’t interrupt your focus on driving.
Mile High Driver Training is dedicated to teaching students how to be safe and responsible drivers so these 3 types of driving distractions can be avoided. Sign up your teenager for one of our 4 hour awareness classes today or get them practicing safe driving with our behind the wheel training. We can’t wait to do our part in making the roads of Colorado safer one driver at a time!