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Cognitive distractions: A risk drivers must avoid

When you think of distracted driving, most people imagine someone texting while driving, doing their make-up in traffic or looking out at the scenery instead of paying attention to the road in front of them.

These are all legitimate - and dangerous - examples of distractions that drivers engage in all too often. However, some of the most unsafe behaviors are the distractions you cannot see.

What are cognitive distractions?

As we have discussed in past blog posts, there are three common kinds of distracted driving, including:

  • Visual
  • Manual
  • Cognitive

Cognitive distractions involve anything that pulls your mind or focus off of driving. As one might guess, it is not easy to detect cognitive distractions. However, a 2013 study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that several activities serve as cognitive distractions for drivers including:

  • Listening to audiobooks or music
  • Thinking about anything other than driving
  • Holding conversations with passengers or over the phone

Driving requires your full attention, so you can react to hazards effectively and avoid an accident. Anything that takes your mind off of driving is a risk - even if it is something designed to reduce distracted driving.

Even hands-free methods can be cognitive distractions

As of July 1, 2019, Tennessee banned the use of handheld devices behind the wheel. However, that does not necessarily mean that drivers are not distracted by their devices anymore.

In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study determined that hands-free phone calls and speech-to-text messages were some of the most distracting activities drivers faced.

This is why you must always:

1. Be aware of your own risk of cognitive distractions

2. Drive defensively to avoid other distracted drivers

3. Avoid using your cellphone behind the wheel at all

Taking extra precautions to make sure you stay focused and vigilant on the road can make a big difference in staying safe.

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