What are the most distracting things you can do behind the wheel?

distractions while driving
As with any other activity, once you’ve driven for a considerable amount of time, you get better at it. When you’ve done something a million times it begins to feel like clockwork. A lot of us drive our vehicles down the same stretch of road, for similar amounts of time on a daily basis. We do this to the point that we feel like we should almost be able to put our cars on autopilot & they would be able to make the drive without our assistance. There may come day in the not-too-distant-future where that is a reality but that’s another topic for another day.

The real problem with getting used to driving the same stretch of road, getting too used to being behind the wheel & feeling bored with the drive (like we’d rather be on autopilot) is that this is the time when we get too comfortable. When we get too comfortable is when we make mistakes from lack of attention. Or, our attention get’s drawn to other (more exciting) things… like our phone, our music, distractions on the roadside, people/situations in the car, the heater or air conditioner, etc. etc. The list of distractions that can draw us away from the road is long. Unfortunately, sometimes our attention span is not when it needs to be focused on driving.

Perceived Most Dangerous Driving Activities

So when it comes to distractions, what is the most dangerous kind? Is it cell phone usage? Is it drinking and driving? Putting on make-up? Something else? NHTSA.Gov has done some interesting studies on this topic. What people perceive to be the most dangerous and what actually is don’t always seem to completely align. In a survey by NHTSA.gov, it was determined that the following four behaviors were viewed as the most distracting (in this order):
putting on make-up while driving

  • Reading printed materials
  • Using wireless remote internet (pda or email)
  • Personal grooming
  • Looking at maps or directions

Actual Activities Drivers Admit To Leading To Crashes

However the same study uncovered the following information. Drivers involved in a crash attributed the following activities to the crash with the associated percentages or related crashes:

  • Looking for something outside of the car – 23% of crashes
  • Dealing with children or other passengers – 19% of crashes
  • Looking for something inside the car – 14% of crashes
  • Another driver – 11% of crashes
  • Personal thoughts/thinking – 5% of crashes
  • Looking at an animal outside of the car – 3% of crashes
  • Dealing with technology (primarily radio) – 2% of crashes
  • Other distractions – 23% of crashes

So as you can see, reading printed material wasn’t the top crash contributor but maybe it’s just not as common? Nor did any of the other top perceived activities line up well with the actual crash contributors admitted by drivers who’d been in accidents.

What about other high risk activities?

drowsy driverWhile distracted driving is definitely one of the top accident contributing risky driving behaviors, other things such as:

  • Drunk driving
  • Driving under the influence of other drugs
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • These are just a few other extremely risky driving behaviors.

There’s a lot of different reasons why a person can say one activity is more dangerous than another. You can base it on sheer amount of accidents of any kind, deaths related to an activity, amount of fatalities per incident, etc. These factors make it difficult to say one type of risky driving behavior is the end-all be-all most dangerous think you can do. According to the Brain Injury Society (citing from NHTSA again), drunk driving resulted in 12,405 fatalities in 2002 while texting & driving resulted in 3,331 fatalities. So it could be argued that drinking & driving is much more dangerous than texting and driving. However, national drinking & driving fatalities were falling at that time compared to texting & driving which was increasing.

However, it could also be argued that the most dangerous thing you can possibly do while driving is a combination of risky behaviors. Who knows how many people are engaged inmate than one of these because if it’s found that someone is under the influence, that will likely trump other distractions or behaviors as the root cause (rightfully so). The problem is, when someone is under the influence the likelihood that they are going to speed or text, or even combine it with other drugs is also going to increase. While it’s hard to say exactly how to define what the single most distracting thing you can do behind the wheel, I think it’s safe to say we can all agree that all of the things mentioned are risky behaviors. Be your own judge at which is the worst but do us all a favor, just avoid them ALL. That text can wait, there’s a sober ride somewhere near by, eat when you get home, don’t read anything while you’re driving, it can wait. Someone’s life could be ruined or ended for the sake of a few minutes or waiting, a little sleep or finding a ride.

Seek Professional Legal Assistance

If you find that you or a loved one has been in an accident due to one of the risky behaviors above, contact a legal professional to help you uncover what options are available to you. The lawyers at Ladah Law Firm are well versed in these types of cases & have the expertise to assist you with your legal needs.