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Understanding visual, manual and cognitive driving distractions

From the National Safety Council
Drivers on their cell phones see just a fraction of their driving environment.

In 2010, Congress designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

According to Injury Facts – an online source of preventable death and injury statistics compiled by the National Safety Council (NSC) – more than 3,100 people died in distracted driving crashes in 2020.

Cellphones and other electronic devices are a major concern, but not the only one, according to Amy Artuso, senior program manager III, mobility safety impact, at NSC.

“Anything that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off of driving can be a distraction,” Artuso said.

That can include reaching into the back seat to retrieve something, taking a hand off the wheel to eat or drink, being in an involved conversation with a passenger and using a hands-free device.

How can workers become more aware of the dangers of distracted driving?

“Employers and safety professionals can prioritize this issue on and off the job,” Artuso said.

Strategies include:

  • Teach workers the three main types of distraction: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) and cognitive (taking your mind off driving).
  • Consider a policy that bans the use of handheld and hands-free devices while driving.
  • Encourage workers to put electronic devices on “Do not disturb” mode, silence them or turn them off. NSC has a policy template and a safe driving pledge workers can take, available at
  • Advise workers to use devices only when safely parked and to set navigation and other interactive electronics.

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