What Is Distracting To Drivers?

Technology is to blame. The rise of texting is why countless drivers can be seen wandering across lanes and making bad decisions. That is certainly the conclusion that many people would reach based on legislation aimed at reducing distracted driving. The truth is that distracted driving existed long before the invention of cell phones. Federal data regarding distracted driving incidents shows that cell phones actually account for a relatively small percentage of distracted driving accidents.

The number one culprit in accidents caused by distracted drivers might come as a surprise. Drivers are most often distracted by their passengers. Conversations with passengers is the cause of more than half of all distracted driving crashes. This form of distraction is cited nearly four times as often as cell phone related issues, including texting, dialing, navigating and surfing the Internet. Cell phones are a growing cause of distraction, but they are far from the largest problem when it comes to distracted driving crashes.

Understanding the true nature of distracted driving is important. Measures banning texting and driving do not get to the heart of the matter. In fact, drivers may even be given a false sense of confidence in engaging in forms of distraction that are not strictly forbidden. If people believe that texting is the primary source of danger, they may assume that other distractions are less dangerous.

It is impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time. That is not the same as saying you can’t do two things at once. You can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time, but you can’t focus on both. You are either focusing on your conversation, or you are focusing on driving. If your goal is to get where you are going safely, you need to keep your mind on the road at all times.

Source: The Washington Post, “This surprising activity is more dangerous than using your phone while driving,” by Jacob Bogage, 23 June 2016

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