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3 dangerous types of driving distraction beyond mobile phones

Laws implemented to prevent distracted driving and public awareness campaigns often primarily focus on mobile devices. There is little question that cell phones are a major source of distraction on the road. Many people feel intense internal pressure when they hear a notification or notice a phone vibrating. Even if they resist the temptation to physically handle and look at their phone, they likely experience dangerous cognitive distraction when they become aware of their phone and inbound messages.

Consistently avoiding mobile phone use while driving is important for a motorist’s safety. However, there are several other types of distractions that can be nearly as dangerous. What non-digital forms of distraction increase someone’s risk of a wreck?

Conversations and passengers

Many people use hands-free devices to take phone calls while driving. However, mental distraction during phone calls can reduce someone’s safety at the wheel. Conversations with people actually present in the vehicle and also be a significant source of distraction. Drivers may try to make eye contact with those people and may focus more on the conversation than on traffic conditions. Child passengers can be particularly distracting, as they may seek parental attention at times when an adult’s focus should be on the road.

Food and beverages

Eating and drinking while driving is shockingly common. Many people habitually have their morning coffee or a snack while on the way to work. The physical act of eating or drinking forces someone to take their hands off the wheel. Eating is also a cognitive distraction, as people focus on the food more than the vehicle. The risk of a spill is also a concern, someone may react inappropriately if they spill coffee or ketchup in their lap.


Cognitive distraction is perhaps the most dangerous type of distraction because there is no way to know when a driver has something else on their mind. They may have both of their hands on the steering wheel and they look as though their attention is on the road. A driver may focus on a fantasy about their upcoming vacation or a review of their weekly to-do list for work may miss changes in traffic conditions. Cognitive distraction and lead to people making dangerous choices in traffic and failing to notice sudden changes ahead of them that could have safety implications.

Actively avoiding personal distractions while driving and looking for signs of unsafe conduct in others could help someone minimize their chances of causing or otherwise being involved in a major motor vehicle collision.