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What Is Distracted Driving; Causes, Types & Ways To Reduce It

What Is Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is an act of driving and doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving has the potential to increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

Causes Of Distracted Driving

Examples of activities that can cause distraction while driving are:

  • Sending a text messages
  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Using a navigation system
  • Smoking; reaching for a cigarette or lighter
  • Changing the radio station
  • Programming the GPS
  • Quieting the baby or disciplining the kids
  • Rubbernecking when driving past an accident
  • Reading billboard ads
  • Blasting the radio
  • Looking for something in the car or in a purse
  • Turning to speak to other passengers
  • Allowing unrestrained pets in the car
  • Eating while driving, etc.


Read Also41 Safe driving tips you must apply while driving

Types Of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is summarily categorized into three (3) groups:

  • Visual Distraction: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual Distraction: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive Distraction: Taking your mind off driving

Visual Distraction

When you are visually distracted, it means you have taken your eyes off the road and glanced elsewhere. Things that can cause visual distraction includes; texting, reading billboards, looking at events occurring outside, looking to see what the kids are doing in the back seat, etc.

These kinds of distractions take the driver’s attention from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds

Manual Distractions

In manual distraction you remove your hands from the wheel, for example to change the radio station, check the GPS, change CD plate, change track or reach for a sandwich or drink, even though your eyes are on the road, you have poor control over the car, and again, the consequence is delayed reaction time.

Cognitive Distractions

In cognitive distraction you lose focus or your mind is taken off driving. Talking on a cell phone, receiving a bad news while driving, running, even a hands-free one can cause a cognitive distraction.

Dialing a cell phone and texting combine visual and cognitive distractions and are especially lethal activities. Conversing with passengers, focusing on an engaging news report, or reprimanding children are a few other types of cognitive distraction.


Read Also: 10 Proven tips that can help you avoid falling asleep while driving

Ways To Reduce Distraction When Driving

To reduce distracted driving, everyone in the vehicle has a role to play; both the driver and the passengers:


For drivers

  • Avoid multitasking while driving. Whether it’s adjusting your mirrors, picking the music, eating a sandwich, making a phone call, or reading an email, do it before or after your trip, not during. Remember, when you are on the wheel, driving is your only job.
  • If you must answer phone calls, pullover to make or answer your call before you continue your journey.

For passengers

  • Speak up if you are a passenger in a car with a distracted driver. Ask the driver to focus on driving. Never keep silent
  • Reduce distractions for the driver by assisting with navigation or other tasks.

Here are some good ideas to help you drive more safely: 

  • Use your cell phone for emergency situations only.
  • If you are drowsy, pull off the road.
  • You should limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car.
  • Avoid eating while driving.
  • Do your multi-tasking outside the car.


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Role Of Technology In Reducing Distracted Driving

Source – Wikipedia

Automakers are providing dashboard and heads-up displays to allow driving information to be available without the driver looking away from the road. Gesture- and voice-based interfaces simplify controlling the vehicle and its services. Mobile applications may disable communication, blank the screen or limit access to applications or programs when the device is in motion. A similar approach is under investigation by telecom providers.

On January 7, 2014, an article in CNNMoney announced a partnership between AT&T and car manufacturers Audi and Tesla. AT&T head of emerging devices, Glenn Lurie, told CNNMoney that these advancements reflect a major step forward in converting cars form mindless machines to intelligent gadgets. AT&T says everything is going to be connected. The car will be easier to use, safer, reduce distracted driving, and deliver infotainment. When asked, “Will these innovations increase distracted driving?”, Mr. Laurie replied, “Visual distractions will be limited to passengers as drivers can keep their hands on the wheel”. One will need only their voice to send messages and communicate with their car.

Toyota is working on perfecting technology that will monitor driver’s eyelids to ensure that they are looking at the road. Other vehicle manufacturers are also working on similar technology. For example, General Motors has a pilot program to monitor distraction. Likewise, Jaguar Land Rover monitors the driver’s eyes to create the 3D image for its “Virtual Windscreen”.

Cellebrite has reportedly developed a textalyzer device that can be used to scan a vehicle driver’s smartphone after an accident or incident to determine whether the phone was used to make calls, send text messages and/or emails when the vehicle was in motion.

Transport for New South Wales launched a mobile phone detection camera program in collaboration with technology start-up Acusensus to detect drivers using their mobile phones while driving. In the first three months of going live, 9,000,000 vehicles were checked and more than 30,000 warning letters were issued.

The use of smartphone applications designed to stop certain phone behaviours while driving is an emerging countermeasure for distracted driving. A study at the Queensland University of Technology examined 29 apps that aim to stop drivers picking up their mobiles and reading and answering texts or engaging in phone calls behind the wheel, and found that many of these road safety apps simply ‘hide’ incoming texts and calls – they silence notifications so that the driver is unaware someone is trying to reach them, with the app sending an auto-reply to say the driver cannot answer. In addition, researchers at Queensland University of Technology found that current applications to prevent mobile phone use while driving might not fully prevent visual-manual interactions such as in-car streaming music interfaces or GPS devices, which is not always compatible with driving.

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