You probably already know that distracted driving ranks among the top risk factors for a major accident or collision. Along with intoxication, speeding and exhaustion, distraction is a serious source of danger on the roads that places everyone who drives at risk.
If you already do your best to avoid distractions while behind the wheel, that's one way to reduce your personal risk for involvement in a distracted driving crash. However, the decisions of other drivers could still place you and your passengers at increased risk of a collision or similar accident. Thankfully, there are certain warning signs to watch out for.
The biggest risk is a driver lost in thought
If you notice someone who isn't looking straight ahead at the road or who seems slow to respond to external stimuli, like other vehicles, that's a sign someone is experiencing general distraction. Although cellphones and other smart devices often bear the brunt of criticisms about distracted driving, general distraction or being lost in thought is the biggest contributing risk factor for a distracted driving crash.
Approximately 62 percent of fatal distracted driving crashes in 2013 involved a driver who was deep in thought about something other than the task at hand. If someone looks like he or she is off in another world, do your best to avoid getting close to that vehicle.
People on their cellphones are another major risk
Whether it's an argument with someone else over a phone or an attempt to read or send a text message while driving, cellphone use presents a serious risk of distraction. People may think that they will only glance away from the road for a few seconds. In reality, even a brief look at a cellphone could mean missing critical information, such as the brake lights of a vehicle in front of your car.
Roughly 12 percent of distracted driving crashes involve someone using a cellphone or other device. If you spot someone attempting to drive and use a cellphone at the same time, give that vehicle plenty of space.
Rubber-necking and gawking is as dangerous as it is annoying
Nearly everyone who drives has experienced the frustration of dealing with someone who slows down to stare at something outside one's vehicle. Whether it's a holiday light display, a vehicle crash or someone dancing with a sign at the side of the road, that distraction could lead to a mistake behind the wheel.
These kinds of distractions are responsible for approximately 7 percent of distracted driving crashes. The remainder of serious distraction sources include other people in the vehicle (5 percent), reaching for a device or item in the car (2 percent), changing the radio, heat or air conditioning settings (2 percent), eating or drinking (2 percent), items moving in the car, like bugs or pets (1 percent) and smoking cigarettes (1 percent).