Distracted driving has almost become synonymous with the use of smart devices like mobile phones and tablets. People imagine teenagers on Snapchat while driving or perhaps young adults texting their friends at the wheel.
However, distracted driving knows no age. Professionals can easily feel pressured to respond to a work email. Even adults may find the desire to text or post to social media hard to control.
More importantly, mobile devices are only a small fraction of what causes distracted driving collisions. There are numerous forms of distraction besides electronic distraction that can directly contribute to injurious or fatal crashes. Just because you aren't texting at the wheel doesn't mean you're driving without any distractions.
Manual distraction is relatively common
Manual distraction involves taking your hands off the steering wheel while in control of a vehicle. Generally speaking, if you need to maneuver abruptly to avoid a collision, you will need both hands in place to make things happen quickly and safely.
Whether you are holding hands with a loved one, changing the radio station or reaching for something in the seat next to you, taking your hands off the wheel could have catastrophic consequences.
Visual distraction can also be a major risk
As you can probably guess, visual distraction involves taking your eyes off the road. Some people can engage in manual distraction without engaging in visual distraction. They may be able to manipulate the controls of their vehicle with their hands without taking their eyes off the road in front of them because they know the placement of everything so well.
For many other people, they must look away from the road while also releasing the wheel to perform tasks. This can be particularly dangerous, as you won't even know if the conditions on the road change abruptly until it is too late.
It can take your eyes a few seconds to fully focus on the road in front of you after looking at a different light level. More importantly, you will have to do a scan to see what is happening on the periphery, as missed objects could result in a major driving mistake.
Internal or cognitive distraction remains the most dangerous form
The most frightening thing about driver distraction is that you can't always see it happening. You can tell when a driver isn't looking at the road or when they don't have their hands on the wheel. However, you cannot tell from looks alone that someone in a nearby vehicle is lost in thought or daydreaming.
Internal or cognitive distraction, which involves allowing the mental focus to move on from the task at hand, is a common cause of distracted driving collisions in the United States. In other words, in order to stay safe on the road, you need to keep your eyes, hands, and mind focused on the task.