Distractions are everywhere in life, and when it comes to driving, we need to have moments of focus without any distractions.
Cell phones are the primary visual distraction in this day and age, however, anything that diverts our attention from the road can be considered a distraction, including distracted thinking.
In this article, we will discuss different types of driving distractions, and ways to promote distraction-free driving among ourselves and others.
However, let’s start by discussing cell phones because they are the primary focus of distracted-driving legislation and a significant visual distraction.
Understanding Cell Phone Restrictions by State and Area
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that texting while driving for five seconds at 55 MPH is equivalent to driving the distance of a football field with our eyes closed, which is a disturbing statistic.
States have become increasingly stringent with device-use laws due to alarming statistics like these. Understanding your state’s laws is crucial to avoid hefty fines, and even if you are involved in an accident while using a cell phone, you could be held responsible for the accident.
Law groups specializing in different states can provide excellent resources for understanding state laws regarding cell phone usage, your rights and responsibilities, and how to dispute fault in a car accident. This information is particularly valuable for people whose jobs require extensive driving either through busy traffic centers or across state lines. National organizations like Duejustice.com offer legal clarity on such matters.
For instance, while texting while driving is banned in Kentucky, drivers over 18 years of age do not face a stricter hand-held ban. In comparison, Virginia and West Virginia have such a ban in place. An interstate delivery driver can get in trouble as soon as they cross state borders.
Three Types of Distractions
Phone screens, billboards, and attractions, as well as other accidents, are visual distractions that can divert our attention from the road. That one moment we turn our eyes away from the road could be the moment someone merges into our lane without seeing us. It becomes harder to prove whose fault the accident was even if it wasn’t ours, if we were also distracted at that moment.
This category includes any action that impairs driving’s physical aspects, such as eating and drinking, grooming, adjusting a child’s car seat, etc. We tend to do these activities instinctively as if we were still parked in our own driveway and not driving at high speeds. It is better to take some time out and park your car safely to take care of these activities, even if it makes you late for work. A single distracted moment can result in a devastating accident.
Visual and manual distractions can also be considered cognitive distractions. Still, suppose we are not engaged in rubbernecking or eating with one hand. In that case, there can still be sufficient distraction in our minds – a conversation with our passengers (or an argument), or something abstract such as a stressful situation affecting our mental health.
Mental health issues pose a significant threat when it comes to driving by causing cognitive disconnect, slowing reaction time, and instigating aggressive behaviours like road rage.
Ways to Improve and Encourage Distraction-Free Driving
Various effective ways can help improve our focus on the road while promoting distraction-free driving among ourselves and our families or employees.
For Ourselves: Simply knowing the laws in our state regarding cell phone usage can increase safety awareness, making us less likely to use them to avoid fines and more considerate of traffic officers’ daily work. Taking defensive driving courses voluntarily is another helpful suggestion, which provides an opportunity to revisit the fundamentals of traffic safety.
For Our Family: Apps that restrict phone usage for teenagers while driving may not solve the problem of their susceptibility to distractors. Trust between parents and teenagers creates further distraction, and communication plays a crucial role in conveying respect in all directions. Parents respect their children’s privacy; children respect their parents’ rules, and teenagers respect the laws and dangers of the road. Make them realize for themselves how distraction-free driving is essential. Additionally, remember to set an example for your children to follow.
For Our Employees: many employees face pressure to cut corners while driving for work, and this is especially true for drivers who drive a lot. Employers should provide them with enough time and resources, such as durable GPS systems that require no hand-held devices, to enable them to focus on the road safely. Depending on where an employee regularly drives, they should also be made aware of all state and city-wide cell phone use laws to avoid violating any such laws accidentally.
Recognize Distractions and Save Lives
More than just cell phones, distractions can come from anywhere, even if they do not appear to be distractions as there are no visual or manual components behind them. Defensive driving requires identifying all forms of distractions, including the preoccupations we carry with us. Transforming our cars into distraction-free zones, and focusing on driving safely can prevent accidents and make our roads safer for everyone.