You might have heard of campaigns against distracted driving or texting and driving. And while you understand that it’s unsafe to be multitasking behind the wheel and refrain from texting friends or eating snacks while you are on the highway, you might not know that mental focus is a huge aspect of safe driving.
Beyond distractions that obstruct your vision, like looking at your phone, or those that require you to remove your hands from the wheel, like holding a sandwich in one hand, there are cognitive distractions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cognitive or mental distractions include anything that causes you to think about topics or tasks other than driving.
Many distractions are multi-faceted
Visual and manual distractions tend to impact your mental focus too. For example, if you are using your phone, chances are you are thinking about what you are going to type if you are texting or what you are going to say if you are talking. Or, if you see an accident scene at an intersection, you might still be wondering what happened or processing what you saw three intersections later. It’s crucial to stay away from any activity that might only take your mind off driving — even if it’s only for a few seconds. As it only takes about five seconds driving at 55 mph to cover the entire length of a football field.
Hands-free technology can still be distracting
Using Bluetooth to send a text with voice commands or Apple CarPlay to navigate your route, might help you keep two hands on the steering wheel and two eyes on the road. But the issue with hands-free apps and gadgets is that they still require brain power. It’s safest to only use this technology when you aren’t in driving mode. And if you plan to use hands-free technology while in motion, then you should familiarize yourself with quick commands and pre-program addresses you frequent the most into your GPS system.
Being as mentally aware as possible may save you from an accident and injuries. It will also make it easier to dodge drivers who truly aren’t paying attention to the road.