Driving your car is not all about how well you drive or obey the traffic rules; it also encompasses how keen you are to detect and avert potential dangers posed by other road users. It would be best if you had your eyes on the pedestrians and other drivers. For example, a drunk pedestrian can suddenly jump in your way.
But your greatest worry should be a distracted driver. Unfortunately, we now have more distractions than we used to. Could you be one of the frequently distracted drivers?
For starters, distracted driving is a matter of life and death: each day in the United States, 9 people lose their lives, and 1000 people are injured in crashes related to distracted driving.
Who Is A Distracted Driver?
A distracted driver is any driver whose eyes, mind, hands, or attention are engaged in other activities that interferes with his concentration on the road. This includes sending texts, eating, daydreaming, adjusting the radio volume or a profound conversation/heated argument with the passenger(s).
So how can you protect yourself and your car from a distracted driver? It is by being able to identify a distracted driver so that you can be alert for what may happen next.
Here are the 5 warning signs for a distracted driver:
1. A Cell Phone Glowing
We have to start with cell phone distraction because it is common. Cell phone distraction alone is responsible for about 1.6 million crashes per year, according to the National Safety Council.
How can you tell that the driver of the car close to you is using his cell phone while driving? The first telltale is the glow of a cell phone; that is, the screen/buttons light. These are especially easy to see at night. The cell phone will illuminate the face of the driver if he is holding the phone. His head will also be down facing his lap.
Other times it will not be the cell phone lights giving you a warning; you will be able to clearly see the driver holding the phone with one hand.
Such behaviors are sufficient to alert you that the driver is likely distracted by his cell phone. You should then dread carefully.
2. A Laughing and Yelling Driver
We have already stated that one of the distractions while driving is having a conversation with a passenger. It can be a relaxed conversation, like analyzing last night’s soccer match. They exchange views and laugh happily. But the more the conversation flows, the more the driver starts to assume he is on the football pitch, not the road.
Other times it could be a heated argument where fingers are pointed back and forth. This may be between the driver and the passenger, who happens to be his wife or girlfriend. You may be able to notice the angry gestures or even hear the yelling and swearing.
Should you by any chance notice that the driver close to you is engaged in an emotional, heated, or too exciting conversation to the point he seems to be swerving or ignoring the traffic lights, you should be careful as long as his car is close to your car. A driver who seems to be laughing much is obviously partly distracted. Yes, happiness can be as dangerous as anger on the road.
Are we insinuating you should not have a conversation while driving? No, as long as it is well-measured.
3. A Driving Using One Hand to Drive
If you see a driver having only one hand on the wheel, you should always ask yourself what the other hand is doing. Is it holding a cigarette, popcorn, newspaper, beer can, water bottle, or cup of coffee? Is it changing the radio channels?
The point is, it is not always the cell phone: it can be a ton of other small side-tasks. One second away from the road is a very long time, especially when driving through busy states such as New York.
The driver, while distracted by whatever the other hand holds, might lose control of the car. The law of the ripple effect will ensure whatever mistakes he makes in the process affects the other cars around him.
As the next point, it doesn’t mean that having both hands on the steering wheel is an indication the driver is not distracted.
4. Signs of Eating
A driver can be having both hands on the steering wheel only to go for a handful of popcorn, roast groundnuts, or something placed on the dashboard or between the seats.
Another scenario: the driver in front keeps throwing sugarcane chewing, biscuit wrappers, or bottles through the window. These are telltale signs the driver is eating, so watch your space even if he seems to be having both hands on the wheels most of the time.
It won’t be long before he withdraws one hand to grab some food. The distraction can also come after eating when he cleans his shirt or retrieves the food spillage from the floor.
5. Out of Control Cars
You may not be able to see the driver and what he could be doing, but the movements of his car can give you vital clues as to what to expect if you do not watch out. If the car slows now and then for no apparent reason only to speed along again, or veers to the side of a lane before returning to the road, one of the distractions we have mentioned could be distracting the driver, or he is drunk.
What Should You Do When You Notice a Distracted Driver Close To Your Car?
Give them a wide berth if possible. In fact, you may have to change the route or slow down if you feel the distracted driver can make a grievous traffic mistake anytime. If you cannot easily get away from the distracted driver, consider calling 911 and alerting other road users that the driver is distracted and poses risks. Of course, it has to be an extreme form of distraction, like swerving while engaged in an intense argument.
We do not encourage you to go about calling the police or changing direction each time a driver close to you eats a biscuit or drinks some water.
While we cannot urge you to constantly watch through your side window, windshield, or rear window to check what other drivers are doing, you should not ignore the signs mentioned above if you chance upon them.
Wrapping It Up
Here is the point we wish to drive home: The best method to deal with distracted drivers is to ensure you are not one of them. Anyway, what’s the point of being on the lookout for distracted drivers when you are distracted yourself? Always concentrate on the road while driving. You will be able to notice many things and plan how to outwit them safely.
At Pierre Paul Driving School, you learn to drive in a quiet, peaceful environment, free of distractions. Join us today.