In Maryland, it is illegal for drivers to text or use their phone behind the wheel. The goal of this law was to reduce the epidemic of distracted driving—which is currently the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents in the country.
However, there are many more potential distractions behind the wheel than texting. Maryland drivers must understand all of the potential distractions to help reduce the number of catastrophic accidents resulting from distracted driving.
Maryland government recognizes four kinds of distractions
Most agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only cite three types of distractions. But the Maryland Department of Transportation defines four types.
These four distractions include:
1. Visual distractions
Anything that pulls a driver’s eyes off of the road puts other drivers at risk. Visual distractions include anything from looking at directions or a GPS to observing the view outside the window.
Drivers must keep their eyes on the road to:
- Stay aware of their surroundings
- React to hazards on the road
- Follow visual traffic signals
2. Manual distractions
Another common distraction is anything that requires drivers to take their hands off of the wheel, such as:
- Changing radio stations
Even if drivers see hazards, they need both hands on the wheel to react appropriately and avoid an accident.
3. Cognitive distractions
Cognitive distractions are not as well-known as both visual and manual ones, but they are just as dangerous. If drivers think about their day at work, daydream or even try and hold conversations over the phone or with passengers, then their full attention is not on the task at hand.
4. Auditory distractions
This is one type of distraction that many other agencies do not include. The CDC only lists visual, manual and cognitive distractions that can impair driving.
However, one's hearing is also an important part of driving. Hearing a car honk or emergency sirens approaching can help drivers react quickly and safely.
Music is one of the primary auditory distractions. Most drivers travel while listening to the radio. However, many more drivers nowadays drive with headphones on. This is dangerous and illegal in Maryland because it can block their hearing and slow their response time. Only emergency response personnel are allowed to wear headphones while driving in order to communicate during an emergency (Maryland Code, Transportation § 21-1120).
All of these distractions put both the distracted driver and all other drivers at risk. The CDC reports that nearly 1,000 individuals are seriously injured each day because of distracted driving across the country. Knowing about—and avoiding—all of the different types of distractions can help reduce this number significantly.