Pay Attention! Especially to the Road

By Anagha Rao



What if there was an awful problem with your driving that caused 1.6 million crashes every year? And what if you could easily fix it? Would you pay attention? The problem I am referring to is distracted driving. This concern claims over 3,500 lives every year, yet distracted driving is completely under the driver’s control.



Distracted driving is the act of performing an activity that takes your attention off the road, even for a few seconds. There are three major types of distractions when driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. A visual distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road. Examples of this can include reading texts, doing makeup, or managing a GPS. These distractions can be dangerous: they render a person unable to continually assess his or her surroundings for precautions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the average text grabs a driver’s eyes off the road for the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour. A manual distraction is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, and examples of this are eating food, drinking soda, or texting your friend. Manual distractions can make a driver unable to steer his or her car with the proper reaction time. Lastly, there are cognitive distractions, which are distractions leading to the inability to focus on the road. Examples of these distractions include a thinking about a difficult test at school, talking with another passenger, or even daydreaming about your spring break vacation. Cognitive distractions are harder to consciously detect, and many may not be able to process visual or auditory input. Texting combines all three of these distractions, making it an especially dangerous action when paired with driving.


Distracted driving can impair the crucial abilities that we utilize in driving and increase the risk of deadly accidents. First of all, distracted driving can slow a driver’s reaction time, and they are less likely to respond quickly to hazards on the road. Looking at a screen rather than the road can alter sensory perceptions, and we are less likely to receive vital sensory input. There are several incidents of people missing important road signs because they were focusing on their screen instead. Additionally, talking on the phone while driving may trigger an emotional response in our brain that will impair our ability to think rationally and make decisions in difficult situations. These cognitive effects are subconsciously applied, so we are often more distracted than we think.


One of the major reasons why distracted driving is so hazardous is due to the fact that the human brain is not great at multitasking. Psychologists say that our brain never multitasks; rather, it “task switches.” Task switching is when the brain is splitting its attention between two demanding tasks. Moreover, the transition between moving from one task to another isn’t simple. It takes a few seconds for the brain to mentally adjust itself when changing from one task to another. According to Psychology Today, multitasking is similar to juggling, and we usually throw one ball in the air and hope that we have enough time to throw the other ball in the air before the first ball drops. In this situation, we usually end up dropping one ball or dropping both. In other words, we are putting the lives of ourselves and others at risk for no reason.

There are a few tips to prevent common distracted driving habits.

  • Finish getting ready before you enter the car

  • Avoid bringing any food and drinks into the car

  • Keep your phone out of reach

  • Turn on Do Not Disturb when driving on your phone

  • Make sure all passengers are secure to avoid reaching into the back seat

  • If you are faced with an emergency, pull over and take care of it

Distracted driving ruthlessly claims 3,500 lives a day. To decrease the number of people driving distractedly, it is essential to educate everyone about the effects this behavior can have. By following the tips listed above, everyone can do their part to protect the safety of themselves and others. Using these tips will reduce the number of accidents and will ultimately save the lives of many.



Educational Content

Q: What are the three types of distractions when driving?

A: There are three major types of distractions when driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. A visual distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road. Examples of this include reading texts, doing makeup, or even utilizing a GPS. A manual distraction is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, and examples of this are eating food, drinking soda, or texting your friend. Lastly, there are cognitive distractions, which are distractions leading to our brain not focusing on the road, such as a thinking about a difficult test at school, discussing with another passenger, or even daydreaming about your spring break vacation.


Q: What are some tips to avoid distracted driving?

A: There are a few tips to prevent common distracted driving habits.

  • Finish getting ready before you enter the car

  • Avoid bringing any food and drinks into the car

  • Keep your phone out of reach

  • Turn on Do Not Disturb when driving on your phone

  • Make sure all passengers are secure to avoid reaching into the back seat

  • If you are faced with an emergency, pull over and take care of it





Citations

https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html


https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/distracted-driving/tips-for-preventing-distracted-driving/#.X22eWGhKiUk


https://drivewithcarrot.ca/blog/what-does-distracted-driving-do-your-brain


https://www.pulseprotects.com/learn-how-distracted-driving-affects-the-brain/#:~:text=Cognitive%20Effects,or%20reason%2C%20may%20be%20affected.


https://pricebenowitz.com/resource-center/distracted-driving/types/


Image Credit:

Public domain, https://unsplash.com/photos/siJKL6V3Zbo

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