Visual Distractions and Why Hindsight is Not Always 20/20

Posted: April 30, 2021

Out of the three types of distracted driving, the one that probably comes to your mind first is “Visual.” A visual distraction is described by anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road. They say “perception is everything” – so what if you lose all perception for a couple seconds while operating a 3,000-pound vehicle at 40 miles per hour? Think about how many times you take your eyes off the road or are distracted by your surroundings when you are on your daily drive. Surprised?

Examples of visual distractions include:

  • Changing the radio or browsing a playlist
  • Looking at passengers
  • Reaching for things in the car
  • Operating a GPS
  • Eating & Drinking
  • Observing billboards or other distracting visuals on the roadside
  • Grooming (putting on makeup, brushing hair, etc.)
  • Texting
  • Adjusting temperature controls
  • Baby backseat mirrors

One of the biggest offenders causing visual distractions in our great state of Colorado is the scenery. Lucky for us, many of the million-dollar-view roads have pullovers designated for drivers to stop, stretch their legs, and take photos of their surroundings.

AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the top five distractions while driving were cell phones, car stereos, passengers, GPS systems and eating or drinking. All these distractions start off being a visual distraction and can lead to cognitive and manual distractions. AAA also found that “visual distractions” such as glances away from the roadway lasting more than two seconds increased the risk of a crash or near-crash to over two times that of ‘normal’ driving. These statistics are alarming considering the repercussions of these “harmless” actions behind the wheel – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate suggest that distracted driving leads to around 4,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries every year. (NHTSA).

The reality is that hindsight is not always 20/20. It is easier to analyze situations from the past when we reflect on what happened, but if we make an error on the road, we may not get that chance. Keep your eyes on the road and do not lose sight of what is most important – keeping you, your passengers, and fellow citizens safe when driving.