10 Worst Things People Do While Driving

If you drive a car, read this article, but please, not while you're driving. Driving is a cognitive task, requiring attention and quick reflexes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 80% of automobile crashes and 65% of near-crashes are the result of some kind of driver distraction a few seconds before the accident. Perhaps some of the things we do in the car are so commonplace, we need a reminder of how dangerous these activities can be. Here are 10 of the most distracting and life-threatening things people do while driving.

  1. Text

    Recently, the word "text" became a verb. Around the same time, reading or sending texts, became the cause of 200,000 out of 1.4 million accidents annually, according to the National Safety Council. In order to type out or read a text, you have to take your eyes off the road. That and the fact that you're distracted and not fully engaged with the task at hand (i.e. driving) drastically increases the possibility of your having an accident. Many drivers scramble to do their texting while parked at a stoplight that's turned red. With that in mind, how many times have you stopped behind someone doing just that at a red light, and had to tap your horn in order to snap them out of their texting, and take note that the light has turned green? Texting while driving is banned in 35 states, as well as the District of Columbia. But until drivers across the country acknowledge a connection between not watching the road and creating the potential for a car wreck, drivers and pedestrians in the rest of the states are in danger.

  2. Talk on a cell phone

    Drivers who use a cell phone while driving are four times more likely to have an accident than drivers who do not. Some studies go further to say that drivers who use a cell phone while driving are as impaired as a driver whose blood alcohol level is at the minimum legal level that determines intoxication. The popular show Mythbusers explored what happens if you drive while using a cell phone verses driving while drunk and the results were scary.

  3. Read, share, and tweet

    Be it a newspaper, an annual report you forgot to read the night before and are now trying to digest on your morning commute, or, more likely, a map, reading takes your eyes away from the road increasing the likelihood of your having an accident. This may seem like an obvious point, but consider the fact that the auto industry is designing and rolling out cars with features that allow drivers to view and update their Facebook status and tweet. Such visual and cognitive distractions while driving are dangers. This begs the question, should you click "like" if one of your Facebook friends shares, "OMG! I just rear-ended a cop!"

  4. Apply makeup

    Ladies, there are some things you should take care of at home before you drive, and putting on your makeup is one of them. Insurance companies will happily raise your rates if you are found to be at fault for a car accident, and you are more likely to have one if you drive and attempt to apply mascara. But we shouldn't let men off the hook when it comes to grooming while driving. Guys, even if you're running late, when you drive to work, leave the electric razor at home. One additional note: we were unable to find statistics for accidents caused by men driving while looking at women who were putting on makeup while driving.

  5. Road rage

    Did you see that idiot? He's weaving in and out of his lane, yakking on a cell phone, shaving with an electric razor, and putting on lipstick! I've had it! I hate my job, my boss is an a—hole! I'm just gonna roll up on this guy in my car, floor it, and scare the crap out of him! Idiots shouldn't be allowed to drive! And I'm up for a fight! Who cares if I get caught I – hey, what the…AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! (Cue the sound of screeching tires, crunching metal, and shattering glass).

  6. Drink alcohol

    Every 48 minutes, someone dies in a car accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver. The battle on the part of communities and law enforcement to reduce this grim statistic continues, with sobriety checkpoints, where officers stop and randomly test people to see if they are sober, being one heavily marketed approach. Drivers with repeated DUI arrests may be, as part of their sentencing, ordered to install an ignition interlock in their automobile, which prevents the car from starting up if the driver's blood alcohol level is past the legal limit.

  7. Sleep

    While the health benefits of sleep are widely acknowledged, each year, hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries resulting from car accidents are attributed to sleep deprivation. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and acute insomnia increase the potential for accidents, as do certain drugs like Ambien, which may cause drowsiness. Getting plenty of sleep, and addressing your sleep disorders will help you remain alert when driving. For long car trips, to assure that you remain awake and aware while driving, it's best to plan ahead and schedule time to check into a hotel along your route and rest.

  8. Kids in the car

    "Are we there yet?" is that grating question every kid has put to their parent, whose pat answer is usually, "No. Sit back! And stop hitting your sister. I mean your brother. I mean whoever else is back there with you!" Children will never understand the seriousness required for driving safely unless the parent takes time to educate them. With this in mind, a parent or guardian should lay down some ground rules for the children to follow before getting in a car. If the rules are broken, pull over and resolve the situation. Prepare children for longer drives with activities like coloring books or a safe toy. While driving, keep your eyes on the road, and avoid taking a hand off the wheel to reach behind to where a child is seated.

  9. Play music

    Loud music and driving is as American as mom and apple pie. However, your reaction time slows as much as 20% when you are subjected to loud volumes. Loud music will also prevent you from hearing the sirens sounded by emergency vehicles, which can delay the time it takes for someone to get medical attention or help from the police. No doubt Wayne and Garth would find all of this a bummer, but the movie that you star in is your life. You can hang onto it by blasting your music in the safety of your home.

  10. Eat

    You've probably seen the Geico ad on TV where the "filthy rich executive," driving a $90,000 car, hears over the radio the market is down one million points. He freaks out, spills a scorching large espresso into his lap, slams on the brakes in reaction to the pain, and is promptly rear-ended by the hapless driver behind him. Coffee, soup, and tacos consistently top lists of foods you should not eat while driving, as they are all hot, hard to manage with just one free hand, and have the potential to quickly create a distracting mess. Do you really want to put yourself in a position of having to explain to an emergency worker why, as they pull you out of a twisted wreck, you're covered in beans and shredded cheese?

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