Distracted driving is the traffic safety issue that simply will not go away. Even with numerous legal penalties in place and a persistent information campaign against it, drivers remain tempted by the lure of multitasking while behind the wheel. Dining and driving, personal grooming and making phone calls, however, can all have a devastating impact on a driver’s ability to safely navigate traffic.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people were killed due to distracted driving in 2019. While certain signs of distracted driving – eating while behind the wheel, a driver brushing their hair, talking on the phone – might be obvious, these signs could point to distracted behavior. Here are some common signs you could be facing a distracted driver on your commute:
- Missing traffic signs: You might think it’s just a bad driver, but someone who misses red lights, stops on green and generally ignores traffic safety signals could be a distracted driver.
- Drifting across lane boundaries: A car that drifts across lane markings or onto the traffic shoulder is likely not paying attention to the road.
- Looking down: When the driver spends more time looking at his or her lap, or into the passenger seat, they are likely too distracted by activities inside the car to follow what’s happening on the road.
- Trouble staying at speed: A driver who continues to speed up then slow down then speed up to account for slowing down is likely not paying attention to what’s happening around them.
- Sudden reactions: The driver might suddenly jerk the wheel into a turn lane, slam on the brakes rather than gently slowing down, or change lanes across multiple traffic dividers to reach their destination.
If you see signs of a distracted driver on the road, it is wise to take steps to avoid them. Distracted drivers can cause devastating crashes when they fail to notice stopped traffic, proceed through an intersection without stopping or crossing into an oncoming lane. Motor vehicle collisions can result in catastrophic injuries such as brain damage, amputation, crush injuries, spinal cord trauma and paralysis.