When you drive, there are many things that can distract you, but the road you travel deserves your undivided attention. It all begins with a decision to drive distraction-free, and a basic amount of preparation before each trip to set yourself up for success. Tragically, distracted driving remains a common problem, with distracted driving statistics showing nearly 290,000 people were injured and 3,308 people killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2022 alone.


deer jumping into roadWhy Do You Need to Pay Attention When Driving?

If you are looking somewhere else instead of at the road ahead, or allowing your thoughts to wander away from the task of driving, here are some things you might miss until it’s too late:

  • Highway merge lanes where drivers fail to yield
  • Drivers that stop short in front of you
  • Animals running across the road
  • Large potholes that can cause tire failure
  • Distracted pedestrians crossing active traffic lanes.
  • Large debris in your path
  • Construction lane-closures

There are countless road surprises that add to the reasons why it is necessary to remove driving distractions, to give yourself as much reaction time as possible.  Even if you have quick reflexes, let’s examine why this alone won’t help you in a road emergency when you are distracted.


football fieldHow Quickly Can Drivers React When Distracted?

Even the fastest human reaction times won’t be quick enough to avoid disaster if you don’t see harm coming till it is too late.  While studies show it takes between 0.22 and 0.4 seconds to detect a road hazard when you glance back at the road, you have to add the time you spent distracted to calculate the time you lost to react to a road surprise.

For example, if you glance over to your navigation system and interact to see the wider route you are travelling, this could cost you about 4 more seconds, for a total of about 5 seconds before you begin to react.

Travelling 60 miles per hour, this equates to a distance of one and a half football fields before you begin braking.  If traffic suddenly slowed in front of you, your delayed reaction can result in a multicar pile up, causing injuries to yourself and others who you now are liable for harming.


What Innovations Are Reducing Distracted Driving?

There is a growing effort to develop solutions to eliminate distracted driving and the resulting toll in financial and human costs. Auto manufacturers, technology companies, and road engineers are making gains to remove distractions and increase driver attention on the road.

steering wheel controlsHow Auto Manufacturers Help Minimize Driver Distraction

Today’s drivers are more connected than ever, and so are their vehicles.  Manufacturers are increasing in-vehicle content for communication and entertainment, such as connections for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, to meet market demands, which can increase the risk of driver distraction.  To address this risk, manufacturers are also reducing the need for visual and manual distractions by expanded use of voice commands.  Based on the make and model this can include:

  • Setting or adjusting cruise control speed
  • Activating and adjusting the climate control system
  • Activating and adjusting the audio system
  • Voice dialing
  • Audio text messages and replies
  • Activating and routing GPS

It is important to note that these activities can still create a cognitive distraction, so care should be taken when utilizing these features.

Also, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) helps to mitigate the consequences of distracted driving.  For example, lane departure warnings and forward collision warnings can grab the attention of distracted drivers, and adaptive cruise control and automated braking systems help avoid collisions that would otherwise have occurred.

Technology Developments that Reduce Distracted Driving

Cell phone operating systems offer settings to block text messaging when the device sensors indicate a certain velocity is reached.  It also provides users the ability to automatically send response messages such as, “I am driving right now and will respond to your text when I reach my destination.  Stay safe!”

There are also smartphone apps that can help drivers become aware of their distraction behaviors.  For instance, DriverCare CoPilot, monitors phone interaction and scores drivers at the end of every trip for this and other dangerous driving behaviors.  The app also provides mini training lessons to help drivers improve, as well as gamification and engagement tools to motivate drivers in their safety journey.  Some apps block phone use altogether or allow for organizations to set custom usage policies which are technologically enforced.

Video telematics is gaining popularity as a solution to multiple forms of distracted driving.  Driver distraction data, captured through inward-facing dashcams, becomes easily reportable and reviewable.  Driver behaviors such as eating, drinking, fatigue, and a host of visual and manual distractions are detectible.

roundaboutEfforts of Road and Highway Engineers to Address Distracted Driving

Engineers are advancing road designs to help combat distracted driving.  These are particularly important in urban settings where you encounter more pedestrians, and in work zones where traffic patterns can quickly change.

Road designs that addressed other concerns have had both positive and negative effects on distracted driving.  For example, grooved asphalt, or rumble strips, were originally designed to help alert fatigued drivers, but have the added benefit of gaining the attention of a distracted driver.

On the other hand, removal of roundabouts to improve traffic flow may have had an unintended negative impact.  Researchers at the University of Ohio found roundabouts to be the single most effective road design in reducing distracted driving.

Use of AI traffic cameras are currently being tested in Australia as a powerful solution to eliminating distracted driving.  Their pilot program uses machine learning to detect distracted drivers through an array of AI cameras. By enabling enforcement they hope to eventually erradicate this dangerous behavior.


vehicle ADAS sensorsHow Does Vehicle Maintenance Impact Distracted Driving?

ADAS equipment is effective in gaining the attention of a distracted driver, and helping drivers avert accidents on the road.  Proper vehicle maintenance is key to ensuring ADAS functions correctly.

Vehicle alignment is particularly important, as even a slight misalignment will affect the steering angle sensor.  This can cause the vehicle to attempt to counter steer against the driver, causing them to focus more on their malfunctioning vehicle, than the road around them.

It is critical that ADAS equipment is recalibrated after a collision repair if you’ve been involved in an accident. Repair professionals should still examine your vehicle after a collision, even where there is no apparent damage.  If exterior ADAS sensors are impacted, it drastically increases the risk of failure of ADAS equipment if not corrected.


What Can Drivers Do to Avoid Distractions?

It is simple, but not easy. There are basic steps to removing driving distractions, though it will require breaking yourself of well-established driving habits. After you make your commitment to drive distraction-free, here are some tips to help you succeed.

Prepare Yourself for the Drive:

  • Drink water so you are hydrated before your trip. For long trips, start hydrating two to three days in advance of the trip.
  • Memorize the positions of buttons on your steering wheel you need to use, such as the voice command button.  Looking down to locate them while driving is a distraction.
  • Put lubricating eyedrops in your eyes so they don’t dry out during the segments of your trip.
  • Clean your eyeglasses, and sunglasses.
  • Be ready to go out the door. Applying makeup, finishing your morning shave, and getting dressed while driving are extremely dangerous activities.
  • Place your phone in do not disturb mode.


adjusting rearview mirrorPrepare Your Vehicle for the Drive:

  • Make sure your windshield is clean inside and out.
  • Also, be sure any frost or fog is removed from your windshield, windows and mirrors
  • Clean exterior sensors, including forward facing radar sensors found in the grille or front bumper opening, and side view cameras.
  • Adjust temperature controls.
  • Adjust mirrors, seat and steering wheel positions so you are comfortable and have good visibility.
  • Turn on any comfort features, such as heated seats.
  • Put destinations in your navigation system.
  • Secure pets so they cannot move about.
  • Choose your audio playlist, or radio station.
  • If you need cash for tolls, have it ready in a cup holder.  Better yet, have your toll transponder handle the payment for you.


rest area signWhat to Do During Your Drive:

  • Take frequent breaks. Focused driving on long trips can be mentally and physically exhausting.
  • Watch for eye fatigue. Reapply eye drops during your breaks
  • Avoid cognitive distractions. If you are travelling alone, you might try talking to yourself, as if you were narrating your trip. It might help you mentally focus on the road and keep your mind engaged so you don’t get bored.
  • Keep the volume low on your audio system.
  • Avoid engaging in discussions with passengers.
  • Avoid eating while driving.


In conclusion, reducing distracted driving is crucial for our safety and the well-being of those sharing the road with us. Consistent attention while behind the wheel is a non-negotiable aspect of responsible driving. While industry advances are making strides toward safer roadways, the onus remains on the individual driver to make a conscious effort to stay focused.

We all possess the power to make choices that foster safety; choose to steer clear of distractions and ensure that our full attention is on the road ahead. Start today—make the critical choice to avoid distractions and pledge to be a more attentive, safer driver.

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