By: Dr. George Kipa, medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
In 2010, approximately 210 million motorists shared U.S. roads. That number does not include the bicyclists, pedestrians and construction workers who are often using them as well. Everyone shares in the responsibility of making roads a safe place. When engaging in reckless or distracted driving, you not only endanger yourself, but those around you. Each day, more than eight people are killed and over 1,150 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Common driving distractions include using a cell phone, texting, eating or using in-vehicle technologies, such as a navigation system. Even though the majority of people recognize the risks associated with absent-driving, asurvey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that over one-third of these same people admitted to having read or sent a text message or email while driving in the previous month. There are three main types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. Read on for a breakdown of each and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim of distracted driving.
- Visual Distractions
One of the most common types of distractions for drivers is visual distractions. These interruptions cause drivers to take their eyes and focus off of the road ahead, even for a second. Adjusting the radio or mirrors, checking a new text message, or even looking at an accident on the side of the road are all examples of visual distractions.
- Manual Distractions
When a driver takes one or both hands off of the steering wheel, they are manually distracted. This includes making a call, sending a text message, eating or applying makeup while driving. In 2014, there were831 fatal motor vehicle crashes and 445 multiple vehicle crashes in Michigan. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deemed texting while driving the most dangerous distraction because it involves all three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive.
- Cognitive Distractions
Distractions that prevent you from focusing on driving by pulling your attention are called cognitive distractions. Though hands-free technology has made using mobile phones while driving safer, the driver is still cognitively distracted when having a conversation with someone. Emotional or stressful conversations can also lead to absent-minded driving.
Share roads safely and protect those around you with the following tips for focused driving:
- Make driving your priority; keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
- Avoid using mobile phones. To lessen the temptation, turn your device off. If you have to send a text or make a phone call – pull over. Some mobile applications can even disable devices when driving is detected.
- Be mindful of pedestrians at crosswalks. Keep in mind that children are hard to spot and often make unpredictable movements.
- Save arguments for when you get to your destination or pull over. Intense emotions can be extremely distracting and dangerous.
- Eat and drink before or after driving only.
- Designate a co-pilot to handle the navigation system, control temperature or change the music. If you are alone, pull over to make adjustments safely.
- Be sure to rest and fuel up before long trips. Drowsy driving contributes to more than 100,000 crashes each year.
- Don’t tailgate. The general rule of thumb is to leave one car length for each 10 mph increment. So, at 60 mph you should leave six car lengths between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
S. George Kipa MD is deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more information on healthy living, visitAHealthierMichigan.org.
Supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan