Common driving distractions

Team OD Updated: April 26, 2013, 12:22 PM IST

With the advent of 3G, smart phones and smart cars we are now constantly surrounded by information. Even while on the move your email, text messages and cell phone are but a few clicks away. This is great when you're travelling but if you're doing the driving then this might just be a distraction that could cost you dearly.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in America, as much as 80 per cent of crashes involved some form of driver distraction. Studies conducted in Europe show similar figures ranging between 75 â€" 80 per cent. In India as many as 4 lakh people are involved in road accidents every year (as per research by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) and as much as one fifth of that result in fatalities. Car accidents account for 20 per cent of the accidents and of this as many as 78 per cent of car crashes are reportedly due to the 'fault of driver'. Both studies agree that it's the 18-40 age groups that are the most susceptible to being distracted.

Let's understand what these distractions are. The Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV (California) breaks it down into three categories visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions are distractions that take your eyes off the road like having to read a message on your cell phone or read the name of a track playing on the stereo. Manual distractions take your hands away from the wheel, like when you change a radio channel or change the setting of our air conditioning. Cognitive distractions are distractions that take your mind away from driving altogether like daydreaming. Most common distractions like talking on a cell phone though involve a combination of two or in the worst possible case all three distractions. At just 40kmph looking away for just 3 seconds will see you travel further than a cricket pitch. At highway speeds a similar distractions will mean you have travelled almost the length of a football field, drastically increasing your chances of a crash.

Let's look at the most obvious distractions and how to avoid them.

Taking on a cell phone

This is listed as the biggest cause of distracted driving mishaps in all studies, and some studies even suggest that having a hands free conversation is just as distracting. The cognitive distraction of making a conversation is just as high as holding a phone up to your ear.

To Do -Simply make you phone calls before you begin driving or from the side of the road.


Stuffing your face inside a moving vehicle takes at least one hand off the wheel and while you might easily be able to eat and keep your eyes on the road, the chance of dropping food, or trying to catch a falling coke can easily cause you to lose control.

To Do -Stop at a food mall and take a break from driving. Stretch your legs too and you will feel fresh to continue your journey safely.

Take control of your passengers

Your fellow travelers can also serve as distractions and arguments or disturbing conversations or a moving pet or infant can easily take your eyes away from the road.

To Do -Have your children well buckled and your pets well restrained.


Concentrating on getting a good look at an accident, a billboard advertisement or a scenic view account for as many accidents as drivers talking on their cell phones says one US survey.

To Do -Simply ask a passenger to narrate the scene for you and drive on.

Above all stay focused on the road and let your attention revolve around the task at hand. This ensures that you are in complete control of your car and if something unexpected does occur you will have time to react.


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