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Week 3 Driver Distractions

An activity can create multiple types of distraction. For example, using a hand-held mobile phone while driving creates a biomechanical, auditory and cognitive distraction. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Michael Smith)

An activity can create multiple types of distraction. For example, using a hand-held mobile phone while driving creates a biomechanical, auditory and cognitive distraction. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Michael Smith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Drivers sometimes carry out a distracting activity without realizing the extra risk it causes.

An activity can create multiple types of distraction. For example, using a hand-held mobile phone while driving creates a biomechanical, auditory and cognitive distraction.

Eating or changing a CD are examples of activities that drivers may do without
thinking of the risks involved.

Before engaging in an activity, ask yourself, "will this be distracting?" Think about how you would feel if you saw another road user doing the same thing - self-assessment is an important part of developing your driving habits.

There are four types of driver distractions:
· Visual
· Cognitive
· Biomechanical
· Auditory

Visual distraction occurs when a driver sees objects or events, and this impairs the driver's observations of the road environment. Concern about visual distraction is not new. When first introducing windscreen wipers, a concern over their potentially hypnotic effect took place. The way that a driver observes the area around the vehicle depends on how complex it is, and in complex environments, drivers can find it more difficult to identify the main hazards. In undemanding situations, driver's attention tends to wander towards objects or scenery that is not part of the driving task. Estimates of how many times drivers do this while vary from between 20 percent and 50 percent.

Cognitive distraction occurs when a driver is thinking about something not related to driving the vehicle. Studies of drivers' eye fixations while performing a demanding cognitive task show that their visual field narrows both vertically and horizontally - meaning that rather than scanning the road environment for hazards, they spend much more time staring ahead; in other words, tunnel vision. This means that drivers who are cognitively impaired will spend less time checking mirrors or looking around for hazards.

Biomechanical distraction occurs when a driver is doing something physical that is not related to driving. For example, reaching for something and be out of the driving position or holding an item.

Auditory distraction is when sounds prevent drivers from making the best use of their hearing, because their attention goes to whatever caused the sound.

Concentrate on your driving is easier said than done, especially in uninteresting environments. However, attention to thought can reduce the quality of the observations that you make. It may be difficult to stop yourself from becoming distracted, but if you find yourself engaged in thought or distracted by other means, then it is important to focus on your driving as soon as you realize you've become distracted.