Driving is Multitasking
According to AAA Foundation, if you’re driving your vehicle, you are already multitasking. At a minimum you are: operating a piece of heavy machinery at high speed; navigating across changing terrain; calculating speeds and distances; and responding to all the other drivers and obstacles around you. Adding one more activity in the mix—even talking to your passengers or changing a radio station—can be enough to make you lose control of your vehicle or fail to respond in an emergency.
Researchers concluded that it’s not only the new or high-tech gadgets that are creating the biggest distractions. Drivers today are getting distracted by many of the same actions that distracted drivers 100 years ago—passengers, scenery outside the vehicle, and objects in the vehicle that move or fall over. Activities like eating, smoking, and reading cause the same distractions as high-tech gadgets, such as text messaging, emailing, or using a cell phone.
Types of Distractions
There are three types of distractions and they are anything that takes your:
- Visual – Eyes off the road.
- Cognitive – Mind off the road.
- Manual – Hands off the steering wheel.
Driver distractions reduce your awareness to your driving environment, your decision-making process and your driving performance. This results in crashes or near-crashes and corrective actions having to be taken by you and/or other drivers on the road.
- Don’t touch dials.
Adjust seat positions, climate controls, sound systems, and other devices before you leave or while the vehicle is stopped. Know how your controls work, so if you must adjust something, you’ll be less distracted.
- Stop to eat or drink.
Drive-through windows and giant cup holders make it tempting to have a meal while driving, but you’re safer when you stop to eat or drink. Reducing your risk will be worth the time you spend to stop and eat/drink.
- Don’t operate high-tech gadgets while driving.
Cell phones are a great resource for getting help or reporting trouble. But, even if you use a hands-free device, talking while driving causes you to take your mind off the road. Pull off the road to a safe location (away from traffic) before you use your phone to talk, text message, surf the web, or enter information into your Global Positioning System (GPS).
And practice good habits: Turn your phone off before you drive, so you won’t be tempted to answer calls, text message or read emails on the road. And, if you have a navigation system, enter your destination before departing or use a passenger as your navigator/assistant.
- Pull over to care for children.
Change the baby, feed the kids, and buckle them into their vehicle seats before you leave. If you need to attend to them, pull over in a safe place—don’t try to handle children while you’re driving.
Help young drivers identify and reduce distractions.
New drivers face a big challenge behind the wheel; in fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that for every mile they drive, teens are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers. Additionally, crash risk increases with the number of passengers.
Parents can teach teens to limit distractions, focus on the road, and most importantly model safe behavior behind the wheel. Set a good example for teens by always buckling up and avoiding distractions in your own driving. In all cases, keep your eyes on the road and your mind on the task at hand.
- AAA Foundation – www.aaafoundation.org
- US Department of Transportation – www.transporation.org