A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that it is not just cell phone use that can cause drivers to be involved in a crash or near-crash. In general, accidents may happen when drivers perform secondary tasks, become drowsy, are inattentive to the roadway, and when drivers glance away from the roadway.
While there are other activities that are more obviously dangerous to engage in while driving, like drinking, there are also some simple tasks you may not normally think of as being hazardous. Here are the 10 most distracting activities performed by drivers that lead to crashes and near-crashes.
- Wireless devices: Use of wireless devices by drivers is one of the most dangerous activities. Cell phone activities which are dangerous while driving include reaching for a ringing phone, fumbling with a headset, dialing phones, talking on phones or reading information on the cell phone display. Use of PDAs while driving can be equally hazardous when the driver is searching for the PDA, reading it or entering information on the PDA.
- In car communication: It’s not just talking on a cell phone that poses hazards, it’s also talking to passengers, including children, in the car.
- Internal distractions: There are many dangerous activities drivers distract themselves with while driving. The ones we can limit are reading a book, map, newspaper or magazine, moving objects in the vehicle while driving or reaching for objects, or being distracted by a pet. Some distractions inside the vehicle may be accidental such as dropping an object or if there is an insect is in the vehicle.
- Personal Grooming: We’ve all seen those smart commuters who try to save time by saving their grooming routine for the road. Engaging in personal hygiene activities while driving, including applying make up, shaving, combing or brushing hair, brushing or flossing, removing or altering contact lenses, or putting on or adjusting jewelry can be hazardous to your health.
- Dashboard Tinkering: Try setting these control before you shift into park, as they are dangerous driver distractions: looking at/reaching for/adjusting climate control, looking at/or reaching or adjusting the radio, inserting or retrieving a cassette or CD, and looking at or adjusting other in-dash systems.
- Eating: We’ve all done it. Drive-thrus wouldn’t exist if we didn’t. Dining while driving, with or without a utensil, drinking out of a covered or uncovered container are all equally dangerous activities to engage in while driving. An open cup or container poses further dangers as they may spill easily.
- External distractions: There is a difference between paying attention to your surroundings and being distracted by them. Any of the following external distractions can be dangerous: staring out the window at a previous accident, looking at pedestrians not in the forward roadway, looking at an animal that may or may not pose a safety hazard and construction zones.
- Singing and talking: For some of us the only two places we sing are the shower and the car. Apparently, singing and talking to yourself in your car is also a dangerous driver distraction. This also includes “instances where the driver exhibits dancing behavior.” (NHTSA)
- Smoking: It is not just smoking that can be dangerous while driving, it is the whole process of smoking, from the initial reaching for a cigarette, to lighting the cigarette, smoking it and extinguishing it in the ashtray.
- Daydreaming: can be a dangerous activity while driving. This includes becoming lost in thought or looking a haphazardly round but not at any single distraction, or when a drives looks but does not see.
While some external driving distractions cannot be avoided, it just takes common sense to limit secondary activities to a minimum and focus on the task of driving while behind the wheel.