How many times have you been driving next to a car only to look over and see them staring down into their lap? Unfortunately, it’s quite common and exceedingly dangerous. The National Safety Council estimates that around 1.6 million crashes per year can be attributed to cell phone use while driving. While this statistic may be startling, cell phone use isn’t the only way a driver can be distracted. Here are a few ways you can see if a driver near you is distracted and to steer clear of them.
1. The Glow of a Cell Phone at Night/Looking at Lap
As stated above, if you see a person with their head down, looking into their lap, there’s a good chance they are using their cell phone while driving. Another telltale sign of cell phone use is if their face is illuminated while driving at night. Though electronic dashboards are commonplace these days, the glow of a cell phone and driver’s tendency to look downward instead of at the road in front of them makes it crystal clear whether they are distracted or not.
Eating while driving is one of the more common forms of distracted driving. We’ve all had long trips and rushed mornings where stopping for fast food or coffee is our quickest option for sustenance, but eating while driving can be very dangerous. It only takes a split second for you to look away from the road for someone to cut you off, a child to chase a ball, or any other obstacle to present itself and change your life forever. Dividing your attention between road safety and eating is simply not worth it.
There is currently no law against eating while driving, but if you are swerving or driving erratically while eating, you still can be pulled over and issued a citation. If you happen to cause an accident while eating, you will be at fault. So if you see somebody chewing or holding a wrapper while driving, try to avoid them safely.
3. Personal Interactions
Drivers who interact with the people in their car more often than they look at the road can be quite dangerous. If you observe wildly gesturing, they may be in an argument with a passenger in the car. If they constantly turn around, they could be chastising a child or trying to find something they’ve dropped. Any number of things within the confines of their vehicle can cause a driver to become distracted, even just for a minute. If you see the driver’s posture is not focused solely on the road in front of them, it’s best to keep a safe distance, if possible.
4. Bent Over Posture
If you notice a driver near you leaning forward to look at their dashboard, bending over to adjust their chair, trying to light a cigarette, or searching for something in their center console/touchscreen, they are very distracted. Who knows when they will find what they are searching for, but in the meantime, you don’t need to be near them while they do it.
Types of Distracted Driving
While there are infinite causes for distracted driving, they can all be assigned to one of three categories of distracted driving:
- Visual Distraction – This is any distraction that takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Whether it’s applying makeup, checking a phone or GPS, or looking at a passenger, if eyes aren’t attentive to the traffic in front of them, they are visually distracted.
- Cognitive Distraction – Cognitive distractions happen when the driver’s attention is diverted to any task other than driving. This can include daydreaming, talking on the phone, and more.
- Manual Distraction – Distractions of this sort involve the driver physically taking their hands off the wheel to perform another task. It often goes hand in hand with cognitive distractions and includes eating, texting, fiddling with dashboard controls, and more.
“On a typical day, more than 700 people are injured in distracted driving crashes. Talking on a cell phone – even hands-free – or texting or programming an in-vehicle infotainment system diverts your attention away from driving.”
–National Safety Council
If you notice a driver swerving, braking erratically, or otherwise going against the flow of traffic, they could be either distracted or intoxicated. If the behavior persists, find a safe place to pull over to avoid a potential crash, and notify the proper authorities. Knowing the signs of distracted driving is half the battle. Safe travels!
Additional Distracted Driving Resources
- How Parents Can Encourage Their Teen Driver to Limit Distractions
- Is Distracted Driving a Problem in Illinois
- Take the Just Drive Safety Pledge
- Learn About Cell Phone Locking Technology