Distracted drivers are one of the biggest hazards on the road today. They cause hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, and knowing how to spot a distracted driver can be one of the best ways to keep yourself safe on the road.
There are different types of distracted driving.
The CDC notes that the causes of distraction can be divided into three types: visual, manual and cognitive.
Visual distractions include anything that would take a driver’s eyes off the road. Taking a moment to read a billboard, looking away to read a text message, glancing at the clock on the radio and turning to look at a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road can all redirect a driver’s focus. Any of these distractions can make it difficult for drivers to see and react to hazards.
Manual distractions like writing a text message, reaching for something that has fallen over, adjusting the mirrors or seats on the car or eating a meal can take one or both hands off the wheel. This makes it difficult for a driver to control their vehicle properly.
Cognitive distractions may not physically limit a driver’s ability to control their vehicle, but they can be just as damaging. By talking to passengers, singing along with the radio or daydreaming, they will not be mentally focused on the task at hand. Fatigued drivers will also be unable to react appropriately to other drivers.
Are you sharing the road with a distracted driver?
Distracted driving puts you and other drivers at significant danger. However, it is possible to look for signs of distracted driving. Look for:
- Holding a cell phone or looking down—If someone is looking at their cell phone or texting while driving, it can take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel and their minds off the task at hand. At night, you may see the glow of their screen illuminating their face.
- Large gestures or emotional faces—When drivers get emotional when talking to someone in the car or to their phone, they can make sudden moves that put you at risk. They may stop abruptly, turn or change lanes without signaling or swerve.
- Drivers eating—Even taking a sip from a water bottle can take other drivers’ hands off the wheel.
- Erratic driving—Drivers who drift into another lane or the shoulder of the road, make sudden and extreme corrections, drive at an inconsistent speed or suddenly brake may have their focus elsewhere.
If you notice that another driver is exhibiting these behaviors, it is important to drive carefully. Consider pulling over or calling the authorities to report this behavior if you are able.