We all know that drinking and driving is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it illegal, but there are countless promotions, billboards, and commercials warning us of its dangers.
This is certainly a good thing. Alcohol impairs our judgment, clouds our senses, and slows our reaction time. If you’ve been drinking, you’re in no position to get behind the wheel.
However, there are a number of other factors that can impair your driving significantly that get little attention. In fact, many of them are perfectly legal. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of factors, other than drinking, that impair your driving.
Five Factors Other Than Drinking that Impair Your Driving Ability
Dehydration: A 2015 study found that drivers who were mildly dehydrated made as many errors as drunk drivers. They were likely to make mistakes like crossing rumble strips, late braking, and lane drifting. So drink up! If you’re on a long trip, make frequent stops for bathroom breaks and bottle fill-ups.
Drowsiness: Stay alert, stay alive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue. Since right now it’s difficult to connect fatigue to crashes, the actual number is likely much higher.
Distraction: Distracted driving is anything that takes away attention from the road. That could mean texting or talking on the phone, talking to passengers, eating or drinking, or adjusting the stereo or GPS system. When you text, your eyes are off the road for at least 5 seconds. That means at 55 mph, you will drive the length of a football field by the time you look back at the road. So pay attention!
Emotions: If you are overcome with an emotionally-charged thought or event, it can be difficult to focus on much else. At the drop of a hat, your mood can change, affecting your driving without you even realizing it. And it isn’t just negative emotions–positive feelings can distract you just as much. So be aware of how you feel, and if you need a moment to work through your emotions, there isn’t any shame in pulling over.
OTC and Prescription Drugs: Everyone is different, so OTC medicines like antihistamines and cold pills could make you sleepy, even if their label says nondrowsy. If you just started a new prescription, be alert. Until you know how your medication effects you, it’s a good idea to refrain from driving.
We hope these tips make our roads a bit safer this holiday season!