Changing your commute

Distracted driving dominates the news. You read about it every day. You know the statistics. You understand why texting and driving laws are changing. You're worried about getting hit.

That morning commute used to be a time for you to relax on the way in to work. You enjoyed driving. You always have, until now. Now you're watching as other people around you are:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Browsing Facebook
  • Using the GPS
  • Picking a new song or radio station
  • Doing their daily grooming
  • Yelling at their kids
  • Smoking
  • And much more

It's changing your feelings behind the wheel. At any moment, you know a distracted driver could send you to the hospital. You may have life-changing injuries like paralysis or a brain injury.

The 3 distractions

One important thing to note is that there are three different areas of distraction, as labeled by safety professionals. They are:

  1. Visual distractions. This is anything that makes a driver look away from the highway. For instance, a driver drops his hamburger after pulling out of the drive-thru. He glances down to see the ketchup and grease on his shirt. He's visually distracted for as long as he's not watching traffic.
  2. Manual distractions. This is anything that makes you use your hands for something that is not driving. They're supposed to stay at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. For example, a young woman gets a text message on the way to school. She has to hold the phone with one hand and type her access code with the other. She's distracted.
  3. Cognitive distractions. These are mental distractions, and they're perhaps the hardest to avoid. Maybe your mind wanders. You had a fight with your significant other, for instance, and he or she texted you. You checked it at a stoplight, and your partner sounded furious. Now all you can do is fume and think about how you can win the fight, or cringe and wonder how to make it better. Either way, you're not thinking about driving.

Finally, remember that many distractions check all of these boxes. Texting is one of them. You have to look down at the phone, hold it in your hand, and think about what you're writing. All three distractions combine in a fateful moment as your car plows into the one ahead of you.

Lasting injuries

Go ahead and avoid distractions yourself. It's a terrific place to start. Just don't assume it means you're always safe. Other drivers get distracted constantly, as you can see during your commute. If one hits you, it could lead to catastrophic injuries that last a lifetime, and you must know what to do next.

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