What Really Is Distracted Driving?

What Constitutes Distracted Driving?

You've probably heard the term quite a bit in the recent years, especially with the advent of smartphone technology and other mobile data platforms. These tools, while vital to modern existence, come at a steep price when it comes to focus. Driving is one of the main areas where focus is crucial, and anything that takes even a small portion of that focus is going to potentially cause massive problems. Distracted driving is a big problem in the modern world, but how do you define 'distracted driving'? A few key examples are outlined below, and you'll notice they aren't all related to smartphones.

Eating & Drinking

Distracted driving revolves around absolutely anything that takes a driver's focus from the road. Eating and drinking while driving was an issue long before smartphones became prevalent, and those activities, while sometimes seemingly necessary, drastically reduce reaction time and attention to the road. Drinking isn't quite as bad as eating since most beverages are self-contained, but eating while driving requires a lot of focus on the food in order to prevent spilling. Eating can distract all three primary areas needed for driving, including your vision, your manual control, and your cognitive attention.

Talking With Passengers

Speaking on the phone is incredibly distracting, and speaking with your passengers is just about as distracting. Most drivers will tell you that is it easier to speak with passengers than through a cell phone, and that may be true, but it still creates a situation where the driver is distracted from the task at hand. That focus can only be taken from driving, which endangers the driver, the passengers, and nearby vehicles.

Adjusting GPS Units

Almost everyone is accustomed to using GPS to get from place to place in the modern world, but those devices are just as distracting as any other. GPS units are designed to be set up before you start your journey, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to avoid adjusting the directions or some other feature of the unit while driving. If you need to adjust the GPS, it is a good idea to pull off to the side of the road. Adjusting a GPS requires a lot of focus, especially cognitive focus that should be spent on driving.

Texting/Cellphone Use

The holy grail of distracted driving is texting while driving. It has been proven that texting while driving inhibits reaction time more than being legally intoxicated. In other words, a drunk driver is technically more capable of driving than someone who is simply distracted by texting while driving. General cell phone use is almost as dangerous, but the focus needed to type words in a text is so great that most drivers completely ignore the road while texting.

Reading (Maps, Directions, Etc.)

It should come as no surprise that reading is a distraction while driving, especially when you consider all the other distraction methods that involve reading. The most common item that might be read by a driver in the car is a paper map, but those are on the way out thanks to GPS and cell phone mapping systems. Anything that must be read can distract a driver, which is why it is a good idea to rely on a passenger to handle those tasks.


Sometimes it may seem like you have no choice but to put on your makeup in the car, or maybe you have to shave on the way to work. Any task that takes focus from the road can cause distracted driving, and grooming is a big one. It's better to finish your grooming at home, even if it makes you slightly late. At least you'll be alive. 

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