It’s a common lesson when learning to drive: even if you drive safely, you always need to watch out for the other drivers out there. These days, distracted driving is one of the most common forms of negligent driving. Virtually everyone has a smartphone, and the easy access to these devices means some drivers use them while behind the wheel. This endangers everyone else on the road.
Staying aware is part of being a safe driver. It’s important to know how to spot distracted drivers sharing the street with you and how to respond to them.
Forms of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can take many forms. Basically, distracted driving happens any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, one or both hands off the wheel, or allows their mind to wonder and loses focus on the road.
Some common forms of distracted driving include:
- Smartphone use (text messaging, playing games, reading emails, etc.)
- Eating and drinking
- Applying makeup
Common Warning Signs
Sometimes it’s easy to spot a distracted driver. For example, you might notice that the driver in front of you has a movie playing on their smartphone. In cases like this, it’s important to be wary of that driver immediately, rather than waiting to spot a common warning sign.
However, usually we can’t see directly that a driver is distracted. This is why it’s important to know what types of driving behavior to watch out for, such as:
Swerving or Jerky Driving
If you notice that the driver in front of you is swerving and crossing over the yellow or white road lines, there’s a good chance they’re distracted or intoxicated. In either case, you’re behind an unsafe driver. In this situation, we recommend slowing down and allowing for more space between you and the other vehicle or perhaps pulling over temporarily.
Sometimes distracted drivers won’t realize that the car in front of them has stopped until it’s almost too late. If the car in front of you slams on their brakes at a red light or stop sign, they’re likely distracted.
Failure To Respond At Intersections
Distracted drivers do some of their worst damage at intersections. These drivers aren’t focused on the road and sometimes accidentally run through red lights and stop signs, which can cause a serious accident. Other times, they may stall at a traffic light, not having realized that it’s turned green.
Driving With Headphones
Many drivers tend to think that using voice-to-text devices through earphones is a safe alternative to manually texting while driving, but according to the National Safety Council, it’s just as dangerous. Headphones make it difficult to hear what’s going on around you, which is an important part of being a safe and aware driver.
Vehicles that are driving way below or way above the speed limit are often a sign of a distracted driver.
How To Respond When You Spot A Distracted Driver
If you spot a distracted driver, it’s important to determine if there is a way you can avoid driving near them. Distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and distracted drivers cause car accidents every day.
If you’re driving behind a distracted driver, you could slow down or pull over until they’ve traveled far enough that you won’t encounter them again.
If you’re in front of a distracted driver, you could pull ahead to give yourself some space and then switch into another lane.
If you spot a motorist whose driving is particularly reckless, it may also be worthwhile to notify the police. These calls can save lives, as distracted driving can cause fatal accidents.
Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law, personal injury attorneys in New York City. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.