Manual Distractions when Driving

Every five seconds, a collision disrupts life on US roads and every 12 minutes, a fatality is recorded, often during working hours, impacting employers financially through costs associated with injuries, vehicle repairs and increased insurance premiums. In 2022 alone, distracted driving will be a factor in the deaths of 3,308 people.

Distracted driving encompasses several behaviours, primarily visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Drivers’ increasing tendency to multi-task significantly increases the risk associated with even everyday activities such as talking to passengers, eating or using mobile devices, all of which can take attention away from driving.

Research suggests that distracted driving contributes to up to 30% of all road accidents. Given these statistics, it is vital for companies to implement and enforce a distracted driving policy to ensure employee safety and mitigate liability. Understanding the different forms of distraction and how to avoid them is the first step in creating effective safety protocols.

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Understanding the Spectrum of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is any activity that takes attention away from driving. The Department of Motor Vehicles categorises distractions into three main types: visual, manual and cognitive.

Visual Distractions

These distractions cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. Common visual distractions include checking a GPS or navigation system, looking at what song is playing on the radio, or searching for items in the vehicle.

Manual Distractions

Manual distraction occurs when drivers take their hands off the wheel. Actions such as eating, drinking, smoking, checking the phone, adjusting the radio or setting a destination on the dashboard navigation system are typical manual distractions.

Phone check while driving

Cognitive Distractions

These distractions affect the driver’s mental focus and awareness. Engaging with passengers, experiencing strong emotions such as road rage, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can significantly impair driving ability. In addition, stress and fatigue contribute to cognitive distraction and are believed to cause more than 100,000 crashes each year, including serious injuries and fatalities.

Distracted driving poses increased risks, especially when adverse road or weather conditions require quick and precise reactions. This danger is exacerbated by activities such as mobile phone use or texting, which involve simultaneous visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Many jurisdictions have recognised these risks and enacted laws to curb the use of mobile phones and texting while driving, with federal regulations specifically prohibiting commercial drivers from using hand-held devices.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Strategies to Minimize Driving Distractions

Maintaining focus while driving is crucial, and the best practice is to engage fully with the driving process by keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Here are some effective methods to ensure you stay undistracted:

  • Preparation is Key: Adjust your vehicle settings, such as mirrors, seats, and steering positions, before you embark on your journey. Set your navigation system and review directions ahead of time to avoid mid-drive adjustments.
  • Smart Use of Technology: Utilize radio presets to avoid fiddling with controls while driving. Make use of your vehicle’s “Do Not Disturb” features or simply turn off your mobile phone to eliminate the temptation to text or answer calls while on the move.
  • Safety Stops: If you must attend to tasks like eating, making phone calls, or calming a child, pull over to a safe location. This practice not only ensures your safety but also that of other road users.

Implementing these strategies can significantly reduce the risk of distractions and contribute to safer driving habits.

Six Essential Tips to Avoid Manual Distractions While Driving

To safeguard yourself and others on the road from the dangers of manual distractions, consider these practical tips:

  1. Pre-set Your Navigation: Always enter your GPS directions before you start driving to avoid handling the device while on the move.
  2. Phone Off: Keep your cellphone turned off or stashed away to resist the urge to check it. Remember, any message or call can wait until you’re safely parked.
  3. Hands-Free Communication: If you must make a call, use a hands-free device, or better yet, pull over to a safe spot to ensure your full attention to the road.
  4. Secure Stops for Tasks: Whether reaching for items in the car or soothing a restless child, always pull over to manage these needs safely.
  5. Postpone Snacking: Save snacks or drinks for when you’ve reached your destination, rather than juggling them while driving.
  6. Plan Your Time: Running late can lead to multitasking behind the wheel. Allow extra time for your journey to avoid the rush and the resultant distractions.

Adhering to these tips will help you maintain focus on driving and control over your vehicle, making your travels safer for everyone involved.

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Written and Legally Reviewed ByJacob Galperin

Jacob Galperin is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in personal injury. He has represented hundreds of injured victims and has been able to recover millions in compensation for his clients.

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