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Study reveals surprising cause of distraction while driving

Every driver in Georgia should know that using a cellphone to talk, text, write a social media status update or read an email is distracting if you do it while you are driving. We also know that eating, grooming, reaching for something in the backseat or trying to figure out a navigation system can also be distracting.

However, there other things we do behind the wheel that are similarly distracting but we may not realize it. In fact, according to a recent study, your emotional state can be the thing distracting you from the task of driving safely.

The study examined the driving habits and behaviors of 3,500 people over the course of three years. During that time, the drivers were recorded whenever they were behind the wheel.

Researchers then analyzed these behaviors and paid especially close attention to what drivers were doing in the seconds before an accident. Researchers found that distracted driving was at least partially to blame in at least 68 percent of the accidents.

They noted that cellphone use, reading, writing and using touch screen dashboard controls proved to be the most distracting things a driver could do and increased the risk of an accident by as much as four times.

However, they also found that a driver who was experiencing certain emotions also had an elevated risk of accident. Drivers who were sad, agitate, angry and/or crying were found to be particularly at-risk.

This study reinforces the fact that distraction can be cognitive as well as physical and/or visual. It isn't limited to tasks that take your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel; if you are not mentally focused on driving safely, you can pose a threat to yourself and other motorists.

While it may not be possible to avoid every distraction while driving, it can be crucial for drivers to avoid those behaviors that are the most distracting -- and the most dangerous.

Source: CBS News, "The biggest distractions that cause car crashes," Randy Dotinga, Feb. 23, 2016

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