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Tips for safely avoiding distracted drivers on the road

Avoiding distracted driving requires adjustments in more than one area of your life. The first and most important step you can take is to commit yourself to avoiding distraction at the wheel. From eating and drinking while driving to emotional conversations or the ping of your phone, there are many kinds of distraction that could endanger you and everyone you encounter on the road.

Deciding to avoiding distraction while driving can help you stay safer. However, simply avoiding distractions yourself won't completely mitigate your risk.

You still have to worry about encountering other drivers under the influence of distraction. Learning a little bit more about the kind of distraction can help you avoid driving distracted and make it easier to identify distracted drivers.

There are three kinds of distraction

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three primary forms of distraction that can lead to unsafe driving practices. The first is manual distraction, which involves taking your hands off the wheel, possibly to apply makeup, grab a cup of coffee or adjust the radio.

Some people get so cocky that they think they can steer the car with their knees safely even in heavy traffic. While you may be able to maintain control with one hand or your knees in optimal circumstances, when situations change rapidly, needing to grip the wheel will drastically increase your reaction time.

The second form of distraction is visual distraction, which involves looking at something other than the road in front of you. From the LCD screen in your vehicle to your phone, there are many places that your gaze could wander. Even looking over at your passenger during a conversation could be dangerously distracting. While you can glance to either side and at your passengers, your primary focus should always be the road conditions around you.

Finally, cognitive distraction involves your mind focusing on something else. Whether you talk with a loved one about an intense topic or find yourself daydreaming during your commute, your mental focus will be on something other than the task of arriving safely. Your best options are always to keep your mind, hands and eyes focused on the various requirements of driving.

Watch for visual and manual distraction in other drivers

Cognitive or mental distraction is the most common form of distraction, but it is also the hardest to notice. You can't tell if someone is going over their grocery list or reminiscing about their game-winning touchdown at an intersection. However, you can tell if someone in a vehicle close to you is not looking forward at the road or if they have their hands off the wheel.

Sometimes, by the time you notice these signs, the other driver is dangerously close to you. Still, staying aware and alert can help you give a wider berth to distracted drivers and potentially reduce your risk of getting hurt by someone who isn't paying attention.

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