Distracted driving may be more dangerous than drunk driving

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The National Highway & Transportation Administration has said that distracted driving may be an even bigger cause of deaths and serious injuries than alcohol.

In 2015, 3,477 people lost their lives because of distractions. Another 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Most people think of texting as the main distraction, and it is a serious problem. Texting may only take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, but when you're traveling at 55 mph, that 5 seconds is 100 yards in which you ignore what is happening around you.

But there are scores of other ways you can be distracted today. Here are the main categories to consider. Remember: if you are susceptible to these distractions, the other driver probably is, too.

Mental distraction

The idea behind mental distraction is that you need to pay attention to driving when you are driving. Mental distractions can take any shape at all, from worrying about work, fretting about being late, conducting an argument in your head, daydreaming, singing or even listening too intently to the radio.

Visual distraction

This happens whenever you are looking at something other than the road. Culprits include signs, roadside accidents, bumper stickers, roadmaps, beautiful scenery and intriguing pedestrians. It's fun to look at things, but the road still requires your full attention.

Manual distraction

Any time we are fumbling with something, our field of visions switches from long-range to short-range. Highway patrolman report that a common item found on the floors of crashed cars is spilled french fries.

Changing the Sirius channel, unwrapping a sandwich, recovering a dropped item - all these activities take us away from the task at hand.

All these distractions are parts of everyday life. We all engage in them. But it is critical that we realize we do so at our risk - and at risk to all the other people on the road, too.

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