The 3 Biggest Distractions While Driving
At AAMCO Colorado we believe that a mechanically sound and reliable car makes for a good, safe driving experience. Schedule an appointment at a Colorado AAMCO near you for a complete Vehicle Courtesy Check diagnostic. We believe in keeping you safe and making sure you know what being safe is all about. That’s why we did some research and discovered some interesting things about distracted driving, which is a huge problem on today’s roads.
Driving is something that should receive your undivided attention, but in these times of “always on”, being connected, and never unplugging, it can be difficult to get into our cars and stop multi-tasking. Driving is a combination of skills that take time to learn. When operating a vehicle, the ability to assess situations, evaluate factors and options, and make good decisions on the fly, is something you learn with experience. Knowing what is safe and generally how to just be a good driver also come with experience, but it helps to be informed and aware of the things that could be distracting as you drive – and potentially lead to dangerous or even deadly situations.1
Distracted driving can be defined as any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely.
Daydreaming, not paying attention, or otherwise just lost in thought.
Surprisingly, the number one reported reason for distracted driving seems simple, but it’s something we all do. Time in the car becomes quiet time, a chance to think, reflect, process the day’s events, catch up on those ideas you’ve been putting off. Your mind is obviously not focused on the task at hand – driving. You might think you are paying attention, but your brain is not fully engaged and therefore your ability to act and react is jeopardized.
Driving can also become such a routine procedure that our brains become wired for the repetitive nature of certain routes, such as the way to work and home again. Even if the route is not familiar, the driving conditions can lull you into a state of complacency. If you’ve ever driven through a desert, or a long, flat environment, you know how easily the mind will drift. Add darkness to the mix, and the risks become greater.
When the brain drifts, senses tend to become reduced in their levels of awareness, and reaction speeds become greatly diminished. On the extreme end, falling asleep is a real danger. You should never get behind the wheel if you are overly tired, or have not had enough sleep, especially if you are facing a long drive, or driving at night. Being awake for 18 hours or more, or if you are just extremely tired from a long day, can impair your ability to operate a vehicle to a level comparable to that of being drunk.
We’ve all seen the tragic news reports and photos of gnarly, twisted car wreckage, followed by the inevitable comment of whether alcohol or drugs were involved. We now also hear whether cell phones were involved.
The National Safety Council reports that 1,600,000 accidents per year are caused by cell phone use while driving. Using a cell phone, or any other device that diverts your attention while driving, is more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel. Reaction speed and attention are so severely impaired when using a cell phone while driving that the chance of an accident is six times more likely than being intoxicated. Your brain just is not wired to do two such attention-consuming things at the same time – at least, not effectively. And one of those things – driving – needs to be done at 100% full time.
Just talking on your cell phone takes your attention away from the road and your surroundings and shifts your brain’s focus to the device in your hand, closest to you. It must put its energy into listening and processing everything coming from the phone. Have you ever noticed that when you’re driving and talking on the phone, then end the conversation, you can’t remember the last mile or two? That’s because your brain was focused on other things, and driving was not one of them.
The temptation to take your job on the road, make and receive those calls you missed, dial into that inconveniently scheduled meeting on your way to another appointment, quickly and shortly reply to those emails, is so great when we are enabled. We have the means at hand to multi-task ourselves into dangerous situations, and possibly early graves.
Texting is the worst cell phone activity to do while driving. We’ve all heard and read about the tragedies resulting from a single driver with his face in his phone instead of his eyes on the road. The victims are sometimes not even in another car, but are pedestrians or at a distance from the road. And now there are things like Pokémon Go to further distract people from driving. Cell phones are devices that serve many good purposes in our lives, but they have become a singular cause of so many disastrous situations.
Driving at 55 MPH blindfolded for the length of a football field is equal to driving for about five seconds while reading a text on your phone.
There is also some debate that many people do not admit cell phone use as the cause of their wreck or traffic incident, and it can be hard to pinpoint as the cause, so daydreaming or not paying attention is blamed. In either case, the fact is that the driver was distracted – but cell phone use actually takes away most, if not all, of one’s attention from the road. When you’re driving, put your cell phone away so you’re not even tempted.
It’s always tempting to look at what is going on outside the car, be it other people, accidents, UFO’s or curiosities that you just don’t have time to pause for and investigate. You keep on going, but you keep on looking – your eyes are not where they belong… on the road. The age-old advice of “keep your eyes on the road” is the most fundamental and basic part of driving, and it’s almost ridiculous to think it’s the first thing to go! But we humans are multi-sensory creatures as we move through our world, and what we see absorbs a lot of our brain’s processing power. So, as you drive through the night and suddenly become enthralled by the light hovering over the pasture, pulling a cow into the air, you might find yourself off in a ditch, or drifting into oncoming traffic. Not good. Keep your eyes on the road.
In this digital age of ours it’s easy to be distracted, even while we do things that require infinitely more attention than we actually give them. Stay alert, mute the cell phone and put it away, and keep your eyes on the road. You will increase your driving safety and your chances of arriving alive – and getting to an AAMCO where we can help keep your car running safely and reliably with total car care and repairs.
If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Colorado can help. You can also go online and use the AAMCO Colorado Ask a Mechanic feature to submit your auto repair questions. They will be answered by a real AAMCO Colorado mechanic as soon as possible.
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1 Top 10 List Of The Most Deadliest Driving Distractions
Top 10 List Of The Most Deadliest Driving Distractions. (2013). EHS Safety News America. https://ehssafetynewsamerica.com/2013/04/08/top-10-list-of-the-most-deadliest-driving-distractions/