How many times have you been driving next to a car only to look over and see them staring down into their lap? Unfortunately, it’s quite common and extremely dangerous. Texting and driving double one’s chances of being involved in a car crash, according to AAA. While this statistic may be startling, cell phone use isn’t the only way a driver can be distracted. Here are four signs of distracted driving, as well as ways you can steer clear of these drivers.
1. The Glow of a Cell Phone at Night/Looking at Lap
As stated above, if you see a person with their head down and/or looking into their lap, there’s a good chance they are using their cell phone while driving. Another telltale sign of cell phone use is if their face is illuminated while driving at night. Though electronic dashboards are commonplace these days, the glow of a cell phone and the driver’s tendency to look downward instead of at the road in front of them makes it crystal clear whether they are distracted or not.
Eating while driving is one of the more common forms of distracted driving. We’ve all had long trips and rushed mornings when stopping for fast food or coffee is our quickest option for sustenance, but eating while driving can be very dangerous. It only takes a split second for you to look away from the road and for someone to cut you off, for a child to chase a ball or for any other obstacle to present itself and change your life forever. Dividing your attention between watching the road and eating is simply not worth it.
There is currently no law against eating while driving, but it is still a sign of being distracted. If you are swerving or driving erratically while eating, you still can be pulled over and issued a citation. If you cause an accident while eating, you will be at fault. So if you see somebody chewing or holding a wrapper while driving, try to avoid them safely.
3. Personal Interactions
Drivers who interact with the people in their car more often than they look at the road can be quite dangerous. If you observe wild gesturing, the driver may be in an argument with a passenger in their car. If they constantly turn around, they could be chastising a child or trying to find something they’ve dropped. Any number of things can cause a driver to become distracted, even if just for a minute. If you see the driver’s body language is not focused solely on the road in front of them, it’s best to keep a safe distance, if possible.
4. Bent Over Posture
If you notice a driver near you leaning forward to look at their dashboard, bending over to adjust their chair, trying to light a cigarette, searching for something in their center console or using their touchscreen, this is a sign that they are very distracted. Who knows when they will find what they are searching for, but in the meantime, you don’t need to be near them while they look.
Types of Distracted Driving
Now that you know the signs of distracted driving, let’s discuss the different types. While there are infinite causes of distracted driving, they can all be assigned to one of three categories:
- Visual distractions: This is any distraction that takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Whether it’s applying makeup, checking a phone or GPS or looking at a passenger, if their eyes aren’t attentive to the traffic in front of them, they are visually distracted.
- Cognitive distractions: Cognitive distractions happen when the driver’s attention is diverted to any task other than driving. This can include daydreaming, talking on the phone and more.
- Manual distractions: Distractions of this sort involve the driver physically taking their hands off the wheel to perform another task. It often goes hand in hand with cognitive distractions and includes eating, texting, fiddling with dashboard controls and more.
“On a typical day, more than 700 people are injured in distracted driving crashes. Talking on a cell phone — even hands-free — or texting or programming an in-vehicle infotainment system diverts your attention away from driving.”
If you notice a driver swerving, braking erratically or otherwise going against the flow of traffic, they could be either distracted or intoxicated. If the behavior persists, find a safe place to pull over to avoid a potential crash, and notify the proper authorities. Knowing the signs of distracted driving is half the battle. Safe travels!