Are You Driving Distracted?

A driving distraction is anything that takes the motorist's attention away from operating the vehicle. Distractions fall into three broad categories - visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take eyes off the road. These are activities like reading a GPS or map, looking at something or someone inside the vehicle, gazing at billboards, scenery, etc. Manual distractions take hands off the wheel. These include making or receiving cell phone calls, texting, changing the radio station, adjusting temperature controls, eating, drinking, and grooming. Daydreaming, talking with passengers, an conversing on a cell phone take thought away from operating the vehicle, and are examples of cognitive distractions.

Cell phones are a top driving distraction. Almost everyone has a mobile device and feels compelled to check it regularly. Accessing your cell phone while driving, however, is risky. An AAA Foundation for Highway study found this activity makes a crash four times more likely. State lawmakers have addressed the problem by passing laws banning handheld cell phones behind the wheel. Cell phone makers acted by adding features that can forward calls directly to voice mail while driving, send auto-responses, and more. Auto manufacturers responded by including blue tooth technology in vehicles and often infotainment dashboards. Drivers have embraced these developments, but visual, manual, and cognitive distractions remain an issue. Multitasking behind the wheel compromises roadway safety and is always dangerous.

Distractions are impossible to avoid altogether. There are, however, things drivers can do to minimize and manage them. Consider adopting the following habits into your routine:

  • Follow Illinois' distracted driving laws. Handheld cellphones for talking or texting and other electronic communications are prohibited while driving. Motorists over age 18 can use hands-free and blue tooth technology. The fine for a first offense distracted driving ticket is $75. A crash can result in more serious penalties, even jail time.
  • Make vehicle adjustments before putting the car in gear. Pay attention to temperature control, seat position, location mapping, music and sound settings, mirrors, and more.
  • Buckle children and crate pets for every trip. Pull off the road to provide additional care rather than reach into the back seat.
  • Secure loose gear. These items may roll on the floor, tempting you to take eyes off the road while reaching down to pick them up.
  • Check personal appearance before leaving home. Avoid grooming hair, applying make-up, etc. behind the wheel.
  • Take periodic breaks to eat, return cell phone calls, and re-energize on long trips. Carry-out meals are standard on road trips but should not be consumed en route. Eating while driving takes eyes off the road, removes hands from the steering wheel.
  • Be well-rested, alert, and ready to react to unexpected hazards, deteriorating road conditions, and other cars.

Distracted driving jeopardizes personal safety and makes roadways dangerous. This risky practice affects auto insurance rates too. For example, an insurer may add an upcharge for a distracted driving conviction or vehicle crash. Those with poor ticket and accident records have fewer options for auto insurance and typically pay higher premiums.

Commit to fully focused driving on every trip!