Most drivers will agree that driving while distracted – such as texting behind the wheel – is incredibly risky and irresponsible driving behavior. Unfortunately, many drivers still don’t take this risk seriously. While 84% of drivers recognize cell phone use while driving is unacceptable, 36% of those same drivers admitted to having recently read or sent a text or email while driving.

Dangerous distractions on the road aren’t just limited to cell phone use. According to the CDC, distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving, including eating or drinking, fiddling with the radio, or even talking to a passenger. In the U.S., engaging in these distracting behaviors while driving kills nine people and injures over 1,000 each day. Here’s everything you need to know about distracted driving and how to stay safe on the road.

Is it possible to multitask while driving?

The human brain is only capable of fully focusing on one cognitively demanding task at a time. While many people believe they can multitask, their minds are actually toggling back and forth between two or more tasks, not processing them all at once.

When you do something else while driving, the extra demand of the task can reduce your driving capabilities. You may be less observant or make worse decisions regarding how to control your vehicle safely. You’re also less likely to anticipate road hazards, putting you at a higher risk of getting in an accident.

The 3 types of distractions

Three different types of distractions can put you in danger on the road. These distractions include:

  • Visual distractions: A visual distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road, even for just a few seconds. While one of the most common visual distractions is looking at your phone, they can also include glancing at a billboard, looking at your passengers or checking your GPS.
  • Physical distractions: A physical distraction is any activity that requires you to move around in the car while driving. Common physical distractions can include eating or drinking, changing the radio, or reaching for something in the backseat.
  • Mental distractions: A mental distraction occurs when a driver is thinking about something other than driving while behind the wheel. These distractions can be tricky to avoid, as they involve daydreaming, talking or arguing with someone in the car, speaking on the phone, or even yelling at drivers around you.

When you drive regularly, it can be easy to forget that operating a vehicle requires a great deal of brainpower. The next time you get behind the wheel, remember that distractions put everyone at risk and keep your focus on the road ahead.