When you hear people complaining about a distracted driver, they are typically talking about someone who was using their phone at the wheel. The chances you’ve heard someone complain that another driver was talking to their passenger or drinking a coffee is slim. Yet they and many other everyday things drivers do are also dangerously distracting.
Distraction works in three ways. Some things fall into just one of these three categories, and some into two or three.
These occupy your eyes. Examples outside the car could include a beautiful mountain or an interesting billboard. Examples inside the vehicle range from phone screens to a passenger you are talking with.
Anything that makes you think about something other than the road and the surrounding traffic is mentally distracting. Talking on the phone or composing a text message all require considerable thought, but so does talking to someone inside your vehicle or listening to an interesting piece of news on the radio. Even daydreaming about climbing that mountain you saw on the billboard or pondering which gas station has the best coffee could cause you to miss something happening around you.
If your hands are not on the steering wheel, you are probably physically distracted. Keeping two hands on the wheel gives you the best opportunity to steer around a hazard that pops up in front of you. It also makes maintaining a straight line simpler, reducing the chance that you veer across the lane into someone’s path. If you are holding a drink, reaching for something your child dropped on the floor or stroking your dog’s head, you’re more likely to crash.
Distraction is common among drivers, so if someone injures you in a crash, consider legal help to see if it was a contributing factor.