Watch Out For Distractions!

We’re all guilty of distracted driving during our trips, though perhaps you may not recognize your wayward attention in the moment.  Experience tends to be a false sense of security, enhancing your comfort on the road and perhaps being a little more daring about spreading your attention among more features in your car.  Being a responsible driver means minimizing the elements that attract our attention away from the road and reducing your risk of collisions. Understanding how you’re distracted from the road is easiest by looking at three types of distraction.

The first is manual distractions, or things that take your hands off the steering wheel.  These are the most obvious elements that steal your attention, such as handling your phone, eating, or drinking.  Some people may not consider adjusting the radio or temperature knobs, or smoking a cigarette to be a distractort, but these factors have caused many accidents that could have been avoided with driver attention solely on the road.  Lustine Chrysler of Woodbridge, VA notes that many modern vehicles have opted to place radio controls directly upon the steering wheel so your attention is never drawn from the road.  If you lack these buttons, it’s better to adjust all your car settings to comfortable levels before you depart onto the road, or otherwise make changes while you’re at a fully braked idle.

Visual distractors are any elements that pull your eyes from what’s in front of you or hinder your field of view.  These factors include windshield-attached GPS devices, scenery, or even your fellow passengers. These come closely related to manual distractions, as you tend to need to look at your radio or temperature controls in order to adjust them, for example.  It’s best to pull over if you need to look elsewhere to adjust your comfort or take in the view. Many highways also engineer specific overlook locations to take in otherwise distracting scenery, clearly advertised on the road usually with brown rest location signs.  

Lastly, cognitive driving distractions drift your focus away from the road, demanding your attention elsewhere or on other subjects even when you’re otherwise practicing good driving techniques.  This is by far the broadest niche of distractors you’ll encounter, ranging from obvious elements that will occupy your mind from the road ahead to more hidden factors that still significantly impact how much more likely you are to get into an accident.  Holding conversation with passengers or over the phone is the primary example of this kind of distractor. Emotions also fall heavily within cognitive distractors, such as being upset or suffering from road rage. Exhaustion is another major contributor of accidents on the road, as you don’t have the same reaction timing as you would with your full level of alertness.  Probably most impactful, though, is your conceptualization of time. If you leave with a small amount of time to get somewhere, or are running late for an appointment or to get to your job, you place yourself under a significant amount of stress to meet your self enforced deadline. Just remember to take things slow and arrive whenever you may.

Assessing your level of daily distraction using these three subjects throughout your drive can cut down on your risk of getting into an accident.  You may run a little late or have to wait for a while to find a safe stopping point to adjust any of your vehicle’s settings, but dedicating your attention to the road both keeps you and the others on the road safe.  You’re always allowed to pull over if you need to sacrifice your focus, make a phone call, or need a boosting twenty-minute power nap. It can be hard to dedicate our attentions to one thing for hours at a time, particularly in today’s fast-paced and multitasking-oriented world, but taking breaks when you need and being smart about your choices on the road will ensure you arrive to your destination without a scratch.

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