Many people think of distracted driving as the new drunk driving. It is a dangerous practice that has caused far too many otherwise preventable accidents that leave people injured or even dead. With the rise of the mobile phone, distraction has become an increasingly omnipresent danger on the road.
Like with drunk driving, there have been efforts at both the government and individual citizen level to spread awareness about the risks involved with distracted driving. The primary intention of these educational campaigns usually is a decrease in distracted driving. That is a noble aspiration, but if you already choose not to drive distracted, you may benefit more from learning about warning signs of distracted driving rather than simply reading the slogan of another awareness campaign.
Distracted drivers might look like drunk drivers
Most people know that there are behavioral or driving patterns to watch for in potentially impaired drivers. Erratic driving, such as swerving or jerking the vehicle, as well as difficulty maintaining consistent speed, could be warning signs of impairment. Drunk drivers may also exhibit exaggerated reactions or delayed responses to changes in traffic near their vehicle.
Distracted drivers may have some of the same outward symptoms as impaired drivers. With their focus on something other than the task of safely driving, they could very easily fail to notice when something problematic happens nearby, resulting in an overcorrection to their driving. If you see any of the telltale signs of impaired or questionable driving skills, you should give that vehicle a wide berth until you can maneuver away from it entirely.
Look at whose hands are on the wheel, and watch for the light of a phone
During the day, when you drive close to another vehicle, you may be able to see inside somewhat. If you can see that the other driver does not have both hands on the wheel, the reason why could be that they have their phone in their lap.
Of course, as it starts getting darker outside, you will have a hard time spotting whether or not other drivers have their hands on the wheel. Thankfully, the obvious glow of a phone screen in the driver’s seat can be another clear warning of irresponsible driving habits.
Watch for people doing other tasks at the wheel
A shocking number of commuters think that it is acceptable or at least relatively safe for them to do anything from finish buttoning their shirt to applying makeup at the wheel to save time. If you see someone looking in the rearview mirror at themselves to check their appearance or doing anything from eating a breakfast burrito to adjusting their clothing, that visible distraction is a good reason to stay far away from that vehicle as well.
Mental distraction can be harder to identify
While distraction often involves physical activity that takes someone’s hands off the wheel or causes them to look away from the road, people can also experience internal or mental distraction. In fact, mental distraction is one of the more common forms that can impact drivers.
You can’t usually tell just from looking at them if someone is lost in a daydream while at the wheel. However, you may be able to spot other problematic behaviors such as aggressive or animated conversations in the vehicle. Keeping an eye out for distracted drivers can help you avoid them, but it simply isn’t possible to identify and avoid every person engaged in unsafe driving practices.