What Factors Affect Attention While Driving?

D. Grey

Some of the factors that can affect attention while driving are cellular phone use, adjusting the radio, weather conditions, and other people in the vehicle. Gadgets such as cell phones or navigation systems may take the driver's attention away from the road, particularly if he or she is distracted by a visually demanding action, such as text messaging. Weather conditions can also have an adverse affect on the driver's attention, especially during heavy rain or snowfall, which may limit the driver's peripheral vision. Other distractions can also be a factor, such as passengers, eating, or other traffic.

Talking on cell phones can detract from a person's attention while driving.
Talking on cell phones can detract from a person's attention while driving.

The use of cellular phones while operating a vehicle can detract from an individual's attention while driving. The driver may need to handle the phone in order to answer it or to make a call, and the conversation itself can be distracting, especially in the case of important or stressful calls. For many drivers, this has prompted the use of a hands-free unit to limit handling the phone as much as possible. Text messaging can also distract a driver and may even inhibit proper steering as the driver uses the phone to type.

Snow can cause drivers to focus only on what's directly in front of them.
Snow can cause drivers to focus only on what's directly in front of them.

Other gadgets or electronic devices can also affect the attention of a driver. Adjusting a radio can be very distracting, as can removing or inserting a compact disc or operating a portable music player. Navigation systems can be equally distracting if the driver is changing settings or focusing too much on the display.

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Using a cell focus is a distraction while driving.
Using a cell focus is a distraction while driving.

Rain and snow are generally thought of as factors that motivate a driver to focus on the road more closely, but these conditions can also negatively affect attention while driving. In the event of heavy snow or rain, the driver may become too focused on what is right in front of the vehicle or may simply have limited peripheral vision. This may be even more of a concern at night.

Putting on makeup can affect a driver's attention on the road.
Putting on makeup can affect a driver's attention on the road.

The passengers in the vehicle can also demand attention while driving, especially children. Other drivers can also take one's focus away from the road, whether by driving recklessly, honking unnecessarily, or playing a stereo system too loudly. Eating while driving is a relatively common practice, but also has an effect on a driver's attention to the road.

Rain can be distracting for a driver.
Rain can be distracting for a driver.
Distractions while driving are even more of an issue at night.
Distractions while driving are even more of an issue at night.
Eating and drinking should be avoided while driving.
Eating and drinking should be avoided while driving.
Pets can distract the driver and should always be kept properly crated during trips in the car.
Pets can distract the driver and should always be kept properly crated during trips in the car.
Other drivers may affect one's focus while driving.
Other drivers may affect one's focus while driving.

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones. The "Mythbusters" guys even did a show on how cell phone use affects driving. Their findings showed that being on a cell phone for more than just a minute or two impaired driving to the level of about a .10 blood alcohol level, which is over the legal limit in most states.

If a driver does something really boneheaded, I can almost guarantee he or she is on the cell phone while doing it. I can't count the number of near-misses I've had because the other driver was yakking on the phone. Good thing I was paying attention, or I'd have been toast. Rolling stop signs, running red lights, tailgating, pulling out in front of people -- you name it. Most people just can't talk on the phone and drive with any proficiency.

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