Irresponsible Driving: The FAQ’s

Irresponsible driving takes several different forms. For many people, it may be unclear what the differences are between responsible and irresponsible driving, and what behaviors they might be exhibiting to warrant a fine or even jail time. While laws vary from state to state, the basics of irresponsible driving remain intact across the country. Review the facts before getting on the road so you can avoid misdemeanors, points on your license or even needing SR22 insurance because of multiple infractions or a DUI.

Q: What are the types of distractions while driving?

A: There are three types of driving distractions; these include visual, manual and cognitive. 

  • Visual distractions are caused when you focus on something other than the road.
  • Manual distractions are when you move your hands off of the wheel.
  • Cognitive distractions happen when your mind wanders from the business of driving.

Q: What kind of distraction is texting while driving?

A: It encompasses all three – visual, manual and cognitive. Texting while driving is equally as dangerous as driving while legally intoxicated, that is a BAC of at least 0.08%. Commercial drivers experience an increase in the likelihood of crashing to a whopping 23 times that of an undistracted driver. In the five seconds it takes to read a text message, you cross an area the size of a football field (300 feet) if you’re traveling 55 mph.

Q: Is using a cell phone really irresponsible driving behavior?

A: Yes. Using a cell phone to talk or text while driving increases the likelihood of getting into an accident 5 times.

Q: What are some examples of visual distractions while driving?

A: Although it might seem commonplace for veteran drivers, all of the follow encompass examples of visual distractions while driving and can easily lead to an accident. 

  • Reaching or looking for items in the car
  • Looking at passing billboards
  • Adjusting the temperature in the car
  • Looking through a play list
  • Operating a GPS
  • Putting on makeup
  • Adjusting mirrors
  • Reading cell phone notifications

Q: What are some examples of manual distractions while driving?

A: Taking your hands off of the wheel to do something else, even for a moment or two, can create a gap in time that leaves you unable to properly react to a sudden obstacle.

  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking
  • Using a cell phone
  • Reaching around for an item
  • Digging through a purse or briefcase
  • Applying makeup or combing hair

Q: What are some examples of cognitive driving distractions?

A: As humans, our minds tend to wander. The stress of the day, a problem at home or work may occupy our thoughts more than the task of driving. While many of us have years of driving experience, cognitive distractions can create just as much opportunity for mayhem as visual and manual impairments.

  • Daydreaming
  • Talking to another passenger in the car
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Road rage
  • Driving while upset
  • Driving while tired

Q: Some cognitive distractions don’t seem that bad. Can they really cause an accident, and if so, how?

A: Study after study has shown that driving while distracted cognitively greatly impairs the driver. Driving may seem like second nature, but the reality is the driver must be prepared for anything that comes their way. Impairments include:

  • Slower reaction times. When your mind is elsewhere and not on the road, it is going to cause you to have a slower reaction time to the braking car in front of you, the pedestrian who walked out into the road unexpectedly, and everything else that can suddenly happen.
  • “Traffic blindness.” When someone mulls information over in their head or daydreams, they are not focused on the road around them. Over half of drivers who are driving while cognitively impaired displayed traffic blindness: not noticing other drivers on the road, and ignoring traffic control devices.
  • Reduced activity in the brain necessary for responsible driving. The parts of the brain that are responsible for spatial processing, processing visual information and navigation all show less activity when the driver is cognitively impaired.

Keep in mind that even though hands-free devices may eliminate manual distraction, they don’t eliminate cognitive distraction. Check in with yourself regularly throughout your travels to see if you are speeding, braking hard and/or driving aggressively. These are all signs that you may be engaging in irresponsible driving, which could lead to an accident, a conviction or both.  


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