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Is texting the only type of distracted driving?

As a Washington driver, you undoubtedly have seen the public service announcements on television and heard them on the radio: do not text and drive. Everyone knows that texting while driving is the most dangerous form of distracted driving, but is it the only form?

The answer is no. Distracted driving, which injured 391,000 people and claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 alone, is any activity where your hands are off the steering wheel, your eyes are off the road and/or your mind is off your responsibility to drive safely and defensively

Most common types of distracted driving

Any and all the following are examples of distracted driving:

  • Talking on your cellphone, even hands-free
  • Reading anything inside your vehicle, including texts or a map
  • Changing your radio station, CDs or the selection on your MP3 player
  • Adjusting your heater or air conditioner
  • Watching anything inside your vehicle, including your GPS or any other type of video display
  • Eating, drinking and/or smoking

Additional distractions

Grooming yourself while driving, such as combing your hair or applying makeup, also distracts you. So does daydreaming and/or fighting to stay awake during long road trips. Whenever you begin to feel drowsy or sleepy, turn off the heat and crack open some windows to get fresh cool air circulating in your car. Your best and safest strategy, however, is to pull off at the next exit or rest stop and rest for awhile. Taking a short walk also is helpful, as is getting something to eat or drink – inside a restaurant, not from a drive-thru.

One form of distracted driving that you may not even think about is interacting with your passengers. Nevertheless, any time you talk, sing, or, worse yet, argue with someone in your car, your mind engages in that activity. You tend to drive on “autopilot” rather than paying attention to traffic and road conditions and what you should be doing to make sure they do not impose a danger to you and your passengers.

Your life and the lives of your passengers are in your hands, eyes and mind whenever you get behind the wheel. While driving is a routine part of everyday life, it also is a grave responsibility. It is in your best interest to take that responsibility seriously.

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