It’s no secret that distracted driving has been in the news on a weekly basis somewhere somehow for many years now.

Depending on your jurisdiction, the penalties can be mild to quite severe if you’re caught. The key word is IF. However, getting caught is only a small issue. It’s what being distracted really means for both you and those around you that should really matter.

Many experts break distracted driving into three categories; visual, physical and cognitive; which is mentally processing information. The reality is they are all cognitive. They all affect your thought process and take it away from the driving environment. And despite what many people may believe, you need to have the complete package – visual, physical and especially mental – in order to drive safely each day. It’s time to remove the distractions from our driving style to help us remain safe on the roads.

Most of the population narrowly places cell phones as the biggest contributor to distracted driving, but it’s not the only thing. Other electronics such as your GPS, stereo or in-dash electronics can remove the driver’s eyes from the driving environment quite easily. It’s tough to fight sometimes, but it’s really mind over matter with the in-dash distractions; wait until you’re stopped before using them. If the GPS has voice, ensure that it’s activated before driving away and ensure you’ve inputted your location ahead of time. This stops you from having to constantly having to take your attention to it regularly.

Loose items in the vehicle can take the attention of the driver long enough to miss brake lights immediately ahead of you or a red traffic light ahead. Secure any loose item so it won’t take your attention away from the driving task, especially if you have to brake hard at any time. This would include and wrappers, coffee cups, CD cases – anything. And speaking of wrappers, avoid eating while you’re driving. I know there’s a time schedule but taking those ten minutes to eat can allow you to have a nice mental break before hitting the road again, which can also help you remain focused on the driving task. Spilling something on yourself would most likely cause you to look down and think about that as opposed to concentrating on the traffic and that could lead into a major problem.

Before driving away at any time, clear your mind from outside distractions. Perhaps thoughts from home, friends, parts of the job or something which happened earlier in the day or the previous day is still on your mind. Take a deep breath and clear your thoughts. Remember, whatever is on your mind, you can’t do anything about it while you’re driving. Wait until you’re finished driving for the day to deal with it.

Taking your eyes and mind away from the driving environment for just two or three seconds may not seem too long, but it is. If you were asked to close your eyes for three seconds while driving in traffic, you would refuse. There is nothing different about that compared to being distracted behind the wheel. Your eyes would still be away from the driving environment for at least three seconds. Distractions come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s up to you the driver to keep your focus on the important task of driving and ignore everything else. That’s the complete package.

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