5 ways you could be distracted while driving – without really knowing it

Driving is a congnitively demanding task. Anything that takes your attention away from driving can really be a distraction. Taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, and taking your mind off of driving can be fatal.  

Distracted driving is a leading cause of road traffic crashes the world over – and in many cases, you might not even know you’re doing it. Here are five areas you might be self-sabotaging yourself behind the wheel. 

Doing anything related to your cell phone

First and foremost, your cell phone is the epitome of distraction behind the wheel. If you’re talking on a phone, texting, checking your social media profiles or simply browsing, the risks of crashing rise dramatically. Simply having it in your coffee cup holder can be cause for a ticket – which has been the frequent case in Vancouver lately. There is precedent that says a person can be ticketed for using an electronic device even if they are not touching it.

Eating or taking a sip of your coffee 

This might seem crazy to think about, but something as rudimentary as having a sip of your coffee can be distracting because you’re taking one hand off the wheel and prioritizing your cognitive focus towards drinking the coffee or taking another bite. While you might not get a ticket for it, you’re still momentarily distracted and not giving this 3,000-pound missile you’re driving the attention it needs. 

Trying to multi-task

Multi-tasking is really a myth. Anything that cccupies your mind or vision can essentially be a distraction behind the wheel. Change the music at the stop light. Do your make up when the car is parked. Have a sip of coffee when you’re stopped. Trying to change lanes while eating something from your lap is a recipe for disaster. 

Changing the music/GPS 

These technologies distract our brains even long after you've used them. Just because they are built into cars nowadays doesn’t make them any less of a distraction. Program your GPS before you leave the driveway. Set your playlist ahead of time. Do everything possible before you start your journey so you can limit everything that wants to commandeer your mind. 

Tending to your pet 

Pets usually have free reign of the vehicle if they’re given the chance. They will place their head out the car window, and in some cases, even sit in the driver’s lap. According to a study, 64% of drivers admitted to engaging in a potentially distracting pet-related activity, and 29% admitted to actually being distracted by their pets. As much as we love them, they can be a distraction if they’re not in a kennel or held by someone else in the car.  

Doing something else while you are driving, puts extra demands on the driver, which may reduce your driving capabilities. If you're able to resist the temptation and focus on the road ahead, you'll be able to react to the unexpected and maybe even avoid an accident.