Everyone knows it’s dangerous. More than 3,000 people died because of it in a single year. But nearly everyone does it at some point – driving while distracted.

A distraction is anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving. The question is: Which distracted driving behavior do you commit? Do you:

Text? Texting while driving is probably the most common distraction among young people. Even if you’re at a stoplight, you’re still texting while driving, and it means you’re looking at your phone instead of the road and your hands are on your phone instead of the steering wheel.

Talk on a cellphone? You’re driving along, chatting with your mom, a friend, a co-worker — whoever. Your focus is on the conversation and not fully directed to the task of safe driving. Even if you use Bluetooth, talking on your phone is still a distraction.

Use a smartphone to check email or play a game? Smartphones have changed our lives, allowing constant interaction with the Internet and the world. But looking at your phone to check or answer an email or play a game could have dire consequences.

Eat or drink? You’ve been to the drive-through and decide to eat in the car to save a little time in your busy day. Or grab some coffee to stay awake. But eating and drinking takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving. If you drop your food or spill your drink, that could result in an even bigger distraction.

Groom? Today’s cars have lots of mirrors. Perfect for doing your hair, putting on makeup or shaving. All of this takes attention away from driving. It’s best to park before primping.

Use a GPS device? Navigation systems have really helped drivers get from place to place. Many cars have them built in now, and many drivers use navigation apps on their smartphones or install separate systems mounted on the windshield. Putting in an address or adjusting the settings also means you’re not paying close attention to driving.

Read, including maps? If you don’t have a GPS, you might be using a map to find your way. The boredom of traffic jams may lead some people to read a magazine or book. Whatever you’re reading, it means your eyes and mind are not on the road.

Talk to passengers? Conversation with friends and family is great. But when you’re driving, it can be a serious distraction that takes you away from what is most important at that moment. This is especially true for less-experienced drivers and is why many states limit the number of young passengers they can have in the car with them.

Adjust the radio, CD player or MP3? This is probably among the most common distractions — changing the radio station or other in-car entertainment. Many cars now have controls on the steering wheel, but even that can take attention away from the main task at hand.

Look for or reach for objects in the car? You drop your sunglasses. Your child throws a toy. You think you can reach it while driving, until you realize you’re not staying in your lane or paying attention to the road. Reaching for an object may even cause you to tug the steering wheel and make you lose control.

Watch a video? Cellphones, tablets and in-car systems allow you to watch videos anytime, anywhere. Behind the wheel of a car should not be one of those places.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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