No matter how long you have had your driver's license, chances are you have driven distracted at least once. You take pride in your safe driving record, but like other safe drivers in Brooklyn, a distraction could come along when you least expect it, and you do not even consciously have to make the decision to be distracted.
There are three types of distractions you can encounter behind the wheel:
- Cognitive: when your mind is preoccupied with things other than driving
- Visual: when your eyes are distracted by someone or something
- Manual: when your hand or hands are off the wheel
Let's consider what a visual distraction can do to a driver.
While on your morning commute to the office, you see a person on the sidewalk holding up an advertising sign dancing to some music only he can hear through his earbuds. The guy's amusing dance moves catch your attention, and you cannot help but watch him for a few seconds longer than you should - until your eyes flick back to traffic and you see that the car in front of you has stopped. You slam on the brakes. Luckily, you avoid hitting the car in front, and nobody behind you has hit you either. However, your sudden braking caused the cup of hot coffee in your cup holder to go flying. While stopped, you grab a bunch of napkins to quickly mop up the coffee spill before it can reach your laptop case on the floor of your passenger seat.
In only a few seconds' time, you were distracted twice in this scenario, and you did not consciously do anything to cause it. Something by the side of the road caught your attention, and you had a brief emergency inside your vehicle to attend to. These are common distraction types that most people do not plan for.
A conscious choice
The light turns green, and once traffic is moving again, you get a text message, your phone's distinctive notification tone letting you know it was from your boss. You know how impatient she can be. Do you risk picking up your phone to read the text and perhaps try to answer it, or do you wait until you can safely pull over?
Texting and driving is one of the most common and dangerous forms of distracted driving. Programming your GPS, eating a sandwich and reaching over to rummage around for something while you are driving are other ways you make the choice to drive without your full attention on the road. When you are aware of the many different distractions that can capture your attention behind the wheel, you stand a better chance of staying safe on the road.