It’s easy to get distracted while driving, but it’s also very dangerous to do so. A recent study by AAA shows just how dangerous distracted driving can be, and I’m not just talking about texting either. Thinking about what you need from the store, listening to music and taking a sip of your drink while behind the wheel can all lead to crashes that could have been avoided. Here’s a breakdown of the different distractions along with some numbers from the study.
One of the most common types of distractions that drivers suffer from is cognitive or mental distractions. Have you ever been driving around and thinking about your grocery list, your bills or your children instead of thinking about the current driving conditions? Well, you were mentally distracted. While it might not seem like a big deal, you had your eyes on the road after all. Unfortunately, during these times you probably don’t remember much about driving at all. In fact, some people report not remembering entire drives for this very reason.
Driving while mentally distracted can cause you to make more mistakes and it leads to accidents more commonly, so do your best to remain focused on the road, avoid major distractors like talking on the phone to help you stay focused. Listening to music and “seat dancing” was a factor contributing to accidents in 8% of teen driver accidents according to a recent study conducted by AAA.
Being mentally distracted is bad enough, but many drivers occupy themselves with other physical activities while driving as well. For instance eating, drinking, applying makeup or fixing hair while driving are all possible physical distractions that take away from contact with the wheel. Even something as simple as changing a radio station can result in time taken away from the wheel, and an accident in some instances. In that same AAA study, grooming was a factor in crashes about 6% of the time for teen drivers. This shows that there is a very real problem with driving without keeping both hands on the wheel and really focusing on what is going on in general.
Visual distractions are very common and play a part in about 10% of car accidents according to the AAA study. Just taking a moment to glance at a phone text, to look for a piece of gum or to change the station on the radio could be all that it takes to get into an accident. While traveling at 60 MPH, a car travels 88 feet during a simple 1-second glance around the car and in that short time, the driver is unable to see anything happening in the driving environment at all. That’s a long ways to go without seeing what’s going on, and that’s just taking your attention away for 1 second! Imagine looking away for several seconds. It’s easy to see how simple distractions can cause major accidents.
What’s even worse than any single type of distraction is activities that combine several of them at the same time. For instance, talking on a cell phone. To begin using the phone it’s often necessary to look away from the road, take a hand off the wheel and mentally think about everything that you have to do. You get all three of the distractions in that one action. Talking with a companion in the vehicle can often create all three distractions as well. According to that same AAA study, interacting with a passenger was a contributor in about 15% of overall accidents, making it the most common cause overall. It’s vital to try and minimize your distractions while behind the wheel, or you are putting yourself and your passengers at risk.