- Alcohol. Considering all the publicity and the thousands of deaths that stack up year after year, this one should go without saying. Even a modest amount of alcohol will dull your reflexes and start to impair your judgement, which is why state troopers have a much lower tolerance for blood alcohol levels than your liver.
- Fatigue. This is another real killer, although it’s harder to prove in court than alcohol. Fatigue slows your reflexes the same as liquor, but it also adds the threat of nodding off while at the wheel. You may only fade out for a single instant, but when you’re going at highway speeds an instant is all you need for disaster to strike.
- Cell phones. Like drinking and driving, this is another well-publicized blight on today’s traffic safety. And, much like drinking and driving, we can’t seem to stop doing it. Speaking to someone else in the car is already somewhat distracting, and when that person isn’t physically present the distraction only gets worse. Recent studies have shown that hands-free sets are just as bad as regular cell phone use, so the only real advantage is that you get to use both hands for driving.
- Texting. Texting gets a separate entry from cell phone use because it’s much more dangerous than talking to someone on the phone. When you’re talking to someone, your eyes can still pay full attention to the road, but when you text while driving you have to use your eyes to read, you have to remember the alphabet and the order of letters on the keyboard, and you have to consistently look back at your phone to make sure you aren’t typing the wrong words. Texting is extremely effective at distracting your eyes and your brain away from the task of driving.
- Eating, drinking, etc. Driving is never a good time to multitask, no matter how late you are for work. If you have to eat on the go, do it once you’ve reached your destination and you’re out of the car. If you have to shave, apply makeup, or do some other morning task, you can still probably spare a minute when your vehicle isn’t moving to do it right and do it safely.
The real trouble with distracted driving is this: most of the time, nothing happens. You eat your meal, you sneak past the late-night checkpoint, you chat with your friend, and nothing bad happens. This makes it easy to think that what you’re doing isn’t a problem, that if something bad happens you’ll still be able to react to it in time.
Unfortunately, distracted driving is not about skill so much as it’s about luck. It doesn’t matter how heavily the odds are stacked in your favor – you only need to lose once to change someone’s life forever..