Harvard Men's Health Watch

Distracted driving: Fast lane to disaster

By now, virtually everyone with a driver's license has heard that distracted driving causes motor vehicle accidents. It's a very important message, but it's only half right. Distracted driving is indeed the culprit, but the calamities that result are not accidents. Far from being random, unpredictable events that qualify as accidents, the consequences of distracted driving are all too predictable. And since these car crashes are predictable, they are preventable. If you understand the hazards of driving under the influence of cell phones and other mobile devices, you can arrive safely at your destination with enough time to make your calls and send your texts.

Triple threat

There are three major types of distraction: visual distraction (taking your eyes off the road), manual distraction (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive distraction (taking your mind off the complex task of driving). All are important, and when they occur simultaneously, the risk multiplies exponentially (think texting).

Distracted driving is not a new problem. Things like eating or drinking, grooming, checking a map, fiddling with the radio, intense conversations with passengers, and mental preoccupation with personal or professional issues have been distracting drivers for decades. But the digital age has multiplied the hazards; cell phones, texting, and navigational devices have driven distraction to new and more dangerous levels.

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