A number of activities distract Nevada motorists’ attention from driving. People spend a lot of time in their cars, and it may seem like an opportune time to get some things done, like returning a friend’s call, listening to some new music, eating lunch, or checking an email. However, doing these seemingly little things while behind the wheel may significantly impair the ability of drivers to control and safely operate their vehicles. Consequently, this distracted driving behavior increases the risk of collisions, which may result in injuries or death. Thousands of people are killed and nearly one-half million are injured annually in distracted driving crashes.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted drivers may lose control of their vehicles or miss vital events, cues, or objects, all of which may contribute to them causing serious accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that distracted driving crashes cause over 1,000 injuries and nine deaths each day in the U.S. The distractions that may play a role in causing such collisions may be visual, manual, or cognitive.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions involve activities that take drivers’ eyes off the road. Actions that may visually distract motorists include looking at billboards, watching for an address, attending to passengers or pets, or reading directions. If they are not watching the road in front of them, drivers may not see changes in the traffic conditions, hazards, or other situations in time to react safely, or worse, they may miss them altogether.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions, or activities that take one or both of motorists’ hands off the wheel, may cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. Some of the most common manual distractions today’s motorists face include:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Changing the radio station
  • Using the in-vehicle infotainment system
  • Personal grooming

Without both hands on the steering wheel, motorists may lack the necessary command of their cars to maneuver them safely on the road.

Cognitive Distractions

Non-driving activities that take drivers’ minds off the task of operating their vehicles are known as cognitive distractions. These types of activities may include talking to a passenger or on the phone, using talk-to-text or voice-activated devices, or daydreaming. Drivers who lose focus while behind the wheel, even if only momentarily, may make errors that result in accidents or be unprepared to react and respond to emergencies or other situations on the road.

Driving and Cell Phones

Using cell phones is one of the most dangerous distracting behaviors motorists can engage in behind the wheel. Texting while driving is particularly hazardous as it involves all three types of distraction. Reading or sending a text message takes approximately five seconds. According to the CDC, a driver who reads or sends a text while driving 55 mph travels the length of a football field with his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and focus diverted from the operation of the vehicle.

To improve their safety, many drivers use their vehicles’ connectivity features, which allow them to use certain phone features through their car’s infotainment systems or other hands-free options. However, using such technologies does not eliminate the cognitive workload such activities cause drivers, and in some cases, they may only add to the mental tasks a driver is performing while behind the wheel.

How Can Drivers Avoid Distractions?

Developing and maintaining good driving habits may help drivers avoid becoming distracted, reducing the risk of serious accidents. While it may seem that distractions of all types bombard today’s drivers from all angles and are impossible to prevent, there are steps people can take to cut many driving interferences out and help keep themselves and others safe. Some habits that may help people avoid distractions while behind the wheel include:

  • Making any vehicle or system adjustments before hitting the road
  • Storing any loose possessions or gear that may roll around while the car is in motion
  • Using cell phones only for emergency situations
  • Refraining from eating meals or snacks
  • Checking the route and traffic conditions before leaving
  • Finishing all personal grooming and dressing before leaving

Whether it is a child in the backseat that wants something, an urgent phone call, or a need to check the directions, when other activities demand drivers’ attention, motorists should pull off the road and stop their vehicles. Once stopped in a safe area, drivers may handle whatever issues they need to and not pose a risk to themselves, their passengers, or those with whom they share the road. To help ensure distractions do not tempt them while behind the wheel, motorists may find it helpful to store their phones or other electronic devices or to turn off their notifications until they reach their destinations.