Street Survival - Advanced Defensive Driving



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Distractions WILL impact your reaction times and decision- making, despite anything you may think to the contrary.

It is a fatal mistake to overestimate our abilities and delude ourselves in thinking that we have exceptional multi-tasking skills.

In this part of the course, we examine this crucial area by covering the various distractions listed below which can be grouped into three main types.

Distractions sources:

? Questions:

💡 Tips:

🛈 Info:

Thinking Awareness Distractions

Visual (taking eyes off the road)

  • Cellphone App use (mainly texting). See Zebra for more info.

  • Animals or insects inside vehicle.

  • Rubbernecking (outside distractions).

Manual (taking your hands off the steering wheel)

  • Cellphone App use (mainly texting).

  • Dashboard controls (audio/climate).

  • Reaching for an object inside vehicle.

  • Eating or drinking.

  • Smoking.

  • Putting on makeup or men shaving.

Cognitive (taking your mind off driving)

  • Talking on the phone.

  • Conversation with passengers.

  • See Inattentive.

Cell Phone

Cell phones are the biggest culprit when it comes to sources of distraction. Best practice is not to respond to the cell phone AT ALL while driving.


Children misbehaving or parents lack of foresight can lead to fatal outcomes.

Inside Vehicle

Distractions from within a vehicle can distract a driver for a prolonged period which increases the risk of disaster.


The mirror, which should be a safety feature, can in itself cause a distraction and consequent hazard to a driver.

Rubber Necking

As humans, sometimes our curiosity can become a self-imposed threat to our safety on the road.

? What are the top 5 driver distractions?

The top five driver distractions that can significantly impair driving performance and increase the risk of accidents are:

  • Mobile Phones and Smart Devices: The use of mobile phones for texting, calling, browsing the internet, or using social media is a major distraction. Taking your eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel, or mind off driving to engage with a mobile device can lead to delayed reaction times, swerving between lanes, and overall impaired driving performance.

  • Drowsiness and Fatigue: Fatigue and drowsiness can severely affect a driver's attention, reaction time, and decision-making abilities. Falling asleep at the wheel or even being in a drowsy state can have catastrophic consequences. It's crucial to prioritize sufficient rest and avoid driving when feeling excessively tired.

  • External Distractions: Distractions from external sources such as billboards, roadside advertisements, or scenic views can divert a driver's attention away from the road. Gazing at distracting objects or events outside the vehicle can cause the driver to lose focus, compromising their ability to respond to sudden changes in traffic or road conditions.

  • Conversations and Interactions with Passengers: Engaging in deep or emotionally charged conversations with passengers, particularly when turning to face them, can divert a driver's attention away from the road. Passengers may unintentionally contribute to distractions by engaging in loud or disruptive behavior that diverts the driver's focus.

  • In-Car Technologies and Infotainment Systems: Built-in infotainment systems, GPS devices, radios, and other in-car technologies can be distracting if not used in a responsible manner. Adjusting settings, inputting destinations, or selecting music can cause drivers to divert their attention away from the road for extended periods.

It's important for drivers to be aware of these distractions and take proactive steps to minimize them. This includes practicing responsible phone use by utilizing hands-free options or pulling over in a safe location to attend to calls or texts. Additionally, drivers should prioritize restful sleep, manage passenger interactions, and set up in-car technologies before driving to minimize distractions and maintain focus on the task of driving.

💡How to avoid being distracted by a passenger

Staying focused on the road is crucial for safe driving, and minimizing distractions is an important part of that. If you have a passenger in the car and want to avoid being distracted, consider the following tips:

  • Set Expectations: Before starting the journey, communicate with your passenger about the importance of focus while driving. Ask for their cooperation in keeping distractions to a minimum.

  • Establish Ground Rules: Set ground rules for behavior in the car. Ask your passenger to avoid engaging in activities that may divert your attention, such as loud conversations, sudden movements, or showing you things that require your visual attention.

  • Prevent Backseat Driving: Make it clear that you are the driver, and backseat driving can be distracting. If your passenger has suggestions or concerns about your driving, address them calmly but encourage them to let you focus on the road.

  • Limit Conversations During Complex Tasks: During complex maneuvers or challenging driving conditions, limit conversations that may require your full attention. Let your passenger know when you need to concentrate, such as during merging onto a highway or navigating through heavy traffic.

  • Avoid Emotional Discussions: Emotional or heated discussions can be distracting. If a conversation becomes emotionally charged, consider postponing it until you are parked or have reached your destination.

  • Delegate Non-Essential Tasks: Ask your passenger to handle non-essential tasks, such as adjusting the air conditioning, changing the radio station, or handling navigation. This allows you to focus on driving.

  • Plan Ahead: Plan your route, set up navigation systems, and adjust vehicle settings before starting your journey. This reduces the need for on-the-go adjustments that can be distracting.

  • Use Hands-Free Technology: If you need to make or receive calls, use hands-free technology. Voice-activated commands or a Bluetooth headset can help you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

  • Pull Over for Extended Conversations: If a conversation with your passenger becomes lengthy or requires your full attention, consider pulling over to a safe location to continue the discussion.

  • Encourage Quiet Activities: Suggest quiet and non-distracting activities for your passenger, such as reading, listening to music with headphones, or enjoying the scenery.

  • Stay Calm and Focused: Model focused and calm behavior. Your demeanor sets the tone for the car, and your passenger is likely to follow your lead.

  • Educate Your Passengers: Share information about the dangers of distracted driving with your passengers. Help them understand the importance of allowing you to focus on the road.

  • Choose Appropriate Music: Select music that is not overly loud or distracting. If your passenger wants to control the music, establish a playlist or set ground rules for volume.

  • Practice Defensive Driving: Adopt a defensive driving approach, which involves anticipating potential hazards and staying alert. A focused driver is better equipped to react to unexpected situations.

Remember that safety is the top priority when driving, and maintaining concentration on the road is crucial. Open communication with your passengers, setting expectations, and establishing a distraction-free environment contribute to a safer driving experience.

🛈 Statistics on driver distractions (CDC)

While I don't have access to real-time data, I can provide you with some general statistics on driver distraction based on available information up until my knowledge cutoff in September 2021:

  • Mobile Phone Use: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the United States, approximately 9% of fatal crashes in 2019 involved distracted driving, with cell phone use being a significant contributor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 2,800 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018.

  • Drowsy Driving: The National Sleep Foundation states that drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 6,000 fatal crashes annually in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2017, drowsy driving was a factor in approximately 91,000 police-reported crashes in the U.S.

  • External Distractions: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in the United States, in 2019, distractions outside the vehicle were a factor in approximately 3% of fatal crashes and 4% of crashes resulting in injuries.

  • Conversations and Interactions with Passengers: The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that conversations and interactions with passengers were identified as contributing factors in 7% of serious crashes involving teen drivers in the United States.

  • In-Car Technologies: A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that using voice-activated features to interact with in-car technologies led to significantly high levels of mental distraction, resulting in slower reaction times and increased crash risk.

It's important to note that these statistics can vary by region and may have changed since my last update. Driver distraction continues to be a significant concern, and efforts are ongoing to raise awareness, develop stricter regulations, and promote safer driving behaviors to combat this issue. For the most up-to-date and region-specific statistics, I recommend referring to local traffic safety organizations, government agencies, or research institutions that specialize in road safety.

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Street Survival - Advanced Defensive Driving