The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that distracted driving claims thousands of lives every year, with 1,730 drivers killed by distracted drivers in 2018 alone. Knowing the signs of distracted driving can be an essential way to protect yourself from being harmed by these negligent drivers.
Look for the signs of distracted driving.
Spotting distracted drivers often starts with identifying the causes of distraction. The Centers for Disease Control divide the sources of distraction into three categories, though a distraction can fall into multiple categories. Manual distractions remove a driver’s ability to control their vehicle by taking a driver’s hands off their wheel. Looking at a map, cell phone or even a billboard can be a source of visual distraction, taking a driver’s eyes off the road. Anything from daydreaming to dozing off can keep a driver from paying attention to the task at hand, creating a cognitive distraction.
If you see another driver looking down, paying attention to their cell phone or lit by the glow of a screen while driving at night, this can be a clear sign that they are using a cell phone while driving. Cell phones can be especially dangerous distractions because they can be a cognitive, manual and visual distraction.
Signs of eating in a vehicle—including drinking from a cup or holding a sandwich, can indicate that distracted driving may occur. Unwrapping food may require drivers to take their hands off the wheel, drivers may move to pick up fallen food or wrappers or spills could draw a driver’s attention. Eating in a vehicle can increase the likelihood of an accident by 80%.
Distracted drivers may also drift over the centerline or move erratically. Sudden, extreme corrections are often signs that the driver’s focus is not on the road.
When you see the signs of distracted driving, take steps to protect yourself. Pull to the side of the road or take another route to your destination. You may also want to contact the authorities. While you cannot always defend yourself from the danger of distracted drivers, watching for warning signs could allow you to spot these drivers before they become a hazard.