According to an article written by Chris Hayes, a Safety Specialist on the Travelers Risk Control Team, explains that distracted driving is anything that occupies your mind or vision while operating a vehicle. Cognitive and visual distractions can increase your risk of being in an accident up to 23 times! Read more for a list of daily distractions and how they negatively affect your ability to multi-task.

What is “Cognitive Distraction”?

The term cognitive distraction refers to the brain’s limited ability to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously. When an individual is only performing one activity, they may be able to achieve perfection on this task. However, as much as we like to think we can multi-task, the brain is only capable of performing a few tasks simultaneously and these combined items quickly show decreased performance levels.

What is “Visual Distraction”?

Visual distraction is similar to cognitive distraction in that people often drive without really seeing where they are going. Looking at roadside accidents, pedestrians, animals, children misbehaving in the back seat, and construction zones often lead to preventable accidents. Chris Hayes asks drivers to imagine driving the full length of a football field while keeping their eyes closed. He compares this exercise to driving at 55 mph and sending a text for 4.6 seconds. Texting for this very short time makes you 23 times more likely to have an accident!

Other Common Distractions

Every day, drivers perform activities that seem nonchalant but have a serious impact on their ability to safely operate a vehicle. According to the article by Chris Hayes, reaching for an item that is out of reach can raise chances of an accident by 9 times. Reading a map, adjusting a GPS, looking at a text, changing the radio, or even reading road signs will increase chances of an accident by 3 times. Have you ever tried to adjust your outfit, apply makeup, style your hair, or get something out of your eye while driving? This also increases your chance of an accident by 3 times. Restaurants promote the convenience of fast food and drive-through, but is it safe? Eating while driving can increase the possibility of an accident by 2 times.

Here is some crazy math: If I am driving down a road at 55 mph, take a nibble of my cheeseburger, reach for my drink, glance at the upcoming GPS route, and glance at the time, I have just increased my chances of an accident by 17 times!

As incredulous as this seems, driving distracted happens every day and it only takes one little distraction to change your life, your passengers’ lives, and the lives of other drivers on the road. Try to avoid both cognitive and visual distractions by eating before driving, turning your phone on mute while driving, adjusting your GPS route while parked or at a rest stop, and by pulling over to adjust your appearance or pick up something that was dropped.

Take the Distracted Driving Quiz and test your knowledge of your own driving skills!

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