People often use the phrase distracted driving to reference the use of mobile technology at the wheel. There is little doubt that screen use while driving is very dangerous. However, if you operate under the assumption that only mobile technology leads to distracted driving, you might inadvertently increase your own risk of getting into a crash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving is an umbrella term that references any behavior that requires that you take your hands off of the wheel, your eyes off of the road or your mind off of the responsibility of driving safely. If you frequently perform one of the three activities below while driving, you might be a distracted driver without even realizing it.
Eating or drinking at the wheel
Even having a cup of coffee and reaching down to take a sip every once in a while is a distraction. Your brain will focus on the beverage, and the need to set the coffee back down and reposition your hand on the steering wheel can increase your reaction time just enough to put you at elevated risk of a collision.
Eating can be even more dangerous, as it may result in spills and sometimes requires that someone takes both of their hands off of the wheel.
Conversing with passengers or on a hands-free call
You may feel like it is safe to make a hands-free call over your vehicle’s sound system, but that isn’t necessarily true. Although you don’t need to use your hands to dial the phone, you will still experience cognitive distraction because you will focus more on the conversation than on the driving process. The same is true when you have passengers in your vehicle, with the added risk that you may try to make eye contact with them or use hand gestures while talking.
Preparing for work or your next activity
Daydreaming or cognitive distraction is likely the most common form of distraction. It is impossible to prove, so researchers cannot realistically determine how many people let their minds wander and then cause crashes. As much as you may enjoy fantasizing about your next vacation or feel like you need to mentally go over your checklist for your big meeting, that cognitive distraction may keep you from noticing changes in traffic around you and can lead to a collision.
Identifying and avoiding the most common sources of driving distraction will help you reduce your risk of being the one who causes a motor vehicle collision.