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Last Modified: March 1, 2023

Driving Distracted? You May Not Even Know It

Published on January 28, 2016 • Last updated March 1, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Car Safety, Distracted Driving

Here’s a question: what do a delicious burger, a catchy song, and a great conversation have in common?

The answer: they can all be deadly if they’re competing with the road for your attention.

Not Just Texting

Nowadays, when we hear the phrase “distracted driving,” our thoughts almost immediately turn to texting, calling, or otherwise using our cell phones. And while those activities account for a huge slice of the distracted driving pie, they are still only one slice. The Centers for Disease Control define the whole pie as any “activity that takes your attention away from driving.” There are countless ways we can become distracted behind the wheel, but we’ll focus on a few of the most common non-phone-related culprits.

Speaking of Pie…

Eating while driving is as dangerous as it is common, and honestly, it’s an activity that’s fairly easy to defend. After all, eating doesn’t demand an excessive amount of attention or thought—it’s something we do instinctually. So you may be absolutely right if you think you can mentally focus on driving while eating, but your brain isn’t the only thing that needs to stay focused.

Unless you’ve devised some sort of feeding contraption, eating requires the use of your hands. The steering wheel controlling your vehicle also requires the use of those same hands. This is what the CDC calls “manual” distraction. Whether you try to eat with one hand and steer with the other, or throw caution completely to the wind and leave the wheel momentarily unattended in order to get the perfect bite, you’re asking for trouble. So drive hungry if you have to—the burger will still be there when you get to where you’re going.

Dancing with Yourself

Everyone likes to listen to their favorite music while they drive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But getting too carried away with your karaoke is a different story. Chances are that in the midst of your singing and dancing, you’re forgetting to keep a careful eye on the road. This is what the CDC refers to as “cognitive” distraction: your eyes may be on the road and your hands on the wheel, but your mind is somewhere else (in this case, it’s onstage). Being able to carefully and thoughtfully observe the road and the cars around you are skills crucial to your safety. By staying calm and letting the music stay in the background, you can help yourself avoid an accident.

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Another form of cognitive distraction is excessive talking. If your mouth is moving faster than the wheels on your car, it would probably be a good idea to take a deep breath and slow down. Good conversation in the car is a great thing, but heated debates or Oscar-worthy stories can take your mind off what’s important: the safety of you and your passengers. If you’re exerting a significant amount of brainpower in order to maintain a conversation while driving, you may not be alert enough to react to something unexpected on the road.

Essentially, the solution to distracted driving is common sense. If it’s possible that doing something behind the wheel is going to make driving more difficult and unsafe, whether it’s eating, dancing, or talking politics, just don’t do it. The road is only as safe as those who are driving on it, so we should all strive to do our part in minimizing the chance of an accident.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident with a distracted driver, let us know. We want to help in any way we can.

Photo copyright to Håvard Wien



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