Preventing Distracted Driving
Grooming While Driving Is Distracting

Personal Grooming Behind the Wheel: Preventing Distracted Driving

Updated Dec. 16, 2020

Motorists often make the mistake of treating their time driving as “free” time, during which other neglected tasks and activities can be completed. If you are running late to school or work, you may be tempted to save time by fixing your hair or applying make-up in the car.

This is all well and good if you are planning to groom yourself in your parked car having reached your destination, though grooming on-the-move is incredibly dangerous. Typical personal grooming activities require one or both hands to be taken off the steering wheel, a degree of mental focus and the use of your eyes to see what you are doing. Even glancing into the mirror to check your lipstick considerably increases the risk you are exposed to while driving. The safest thing to do is allow yourself a little extra time at home to complete your personal grooming routine before setting off.

Common grooming distractions

Here are some of the most common personal grooming activities which prevent drivers from being attentive behind the wheel, complete with the risks they entail:

  1. 1

    Fixing your hair.
    This will involve at least one hand being taken off the steering wheel. Your gaze may be averted from the roadway simultaneously, as you look into the mirror to check your work. While combing your hair, you will need to move your hand around your head, which will obscure your view of the road ahead and to the sides of your vehicle.

  2. 2

    Shaving behind the wheel.
    Shaving requires continuous use of at least one hand and taking your eyes off the road to see what you are doing. Shaving while in control of a moving vehicle is not easy! You may drop your razor or end up cutting yourself, which would further increase your chances of being involved in a traffic accident.

  3. 3

    Applying make-up.
    Applying make-up requires one or both hands and your eyes. Unless you want to look a mess when you reach your destination, it also demands attention to detail, fine motor control and precision. Needless to say, you cannot afford the mental energy necessary to achieve these things while also controlling your vehicle and monitoring the roadway.

  4. 4

    Brushing or flossing.
    Brushing or flossing while driving will mean taking one or both hands off the steering wheel and is difficult to achieve without making a mess. If you manage to avoid choking or colliding with another vehicle while your attention is averted, you will almost certainly turn up at your destination with toothpaste on your clothes.

  5. 5

    Adjusting your tie or putting on jewelry.
    These actions will take your eyes off the road and your hands off the steering wheel. You may think it will only take a moment, but these things are pretty hard to get right while you’re driving. Waiting until you reach your destination will keep you safer and leave you looking neater.

  6. 6

    Putting in or adjusting contact lenses.
    Adjusting contact lenses while driving is an extremely bad idea. You run the risk of injuring your eye and if you are switching from eyeglasses to contacts, there will be a period during which your vision is blurry, and you cannot properly perceive hazards on the road. If you drop a contact lens, your vision will not be restored until you can pull over and find it.

Keeping your eyes on the road

If you take your eyes off your visual target on the roadway ahead to look at your reflection in a mirror, it will take a moment for your focus to adjust and lock on to the closer image. The process also occurs when you refocus your vision on the road. It will always take longer than you think to glance at your reflection and then return your eyes to the roadway. As your eyes adjust, you may miss important events ahead of or around your vehicle.

Grooming while driving can be frustrating

Any kind of emotional disturbance, anger or frustration, can seriously impede your driving ability. If you attempt to apply make-up or otherwise groom yourself in a moving vehicle (even if you are not the person driving) there is a strong chance that it will not go to plan and you will become frustrated. This frustration will detract your attention from the road and could cause a collision. Plus, you will not really be saving any time by completing these tasks behind the wheel! The likelihood is that you will have to fix the mistakes you have made when you reach your destination.

Penalties for grooming while driving

Like eating while driving, grooming behind the wheel is not strictly prohibited by any primary state laws. However, law enforcement officers can and will stop you if they witness you combing your hair, applying make-up, brushing your teeth or engaging in any other grooming activity which leads you to drive dangerously or commit a moving traffic violation. If you want to stay safe on the roads and avoid a traffic citation, leave personal grooming for when you are in front of the mirror at home.

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Less Common Distracting Activities

There are countless minor tasks which we engage in on a day-to-day basis without thinking, which could prove to be dangerous distractions while driving. You may not think twice about smoking, allowing your mind to wander, swatting away a bug or picking up a dropped object while you’re walking down the street, but you must avoid these activities as much as possible while behind the wheel.

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Driving With Passengers

As a driver, your responsibility is to keep your passengers safe, not to keep them entertained. Any passenger you transport must respect your need to pay attention to the road and must not distract you from the driving task. Remember: your car, your rules.

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Distractions Outside The Car

Distractions inside the car are not the only problem you face while driving. Your attention will be focused on events around your vehicle and on the roadway up ahead, which means you are at risk of becoming distracted by things happening outside the car and by the roadside.

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The Cognitive Basis of Distracted Driving

While we may often feel as if we are performing two or more tasks at the same time, we’re not, as the human brain is physically incapable of it. This means that you are only ever working on one task at a time. While driving and engaging in a distracting activity such as eating or combing your hair, your mind will not be focused on driving at all, for at least some of the time.

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Talking on The Cell Phone

Using a cell phone is one of the most risk-enhancing mistakes you can make while operating a moving vehicle. Many motorists assume that this only applies to hand-held cell phone use, though hands-free phone activity can be equally as dangerous.

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Texting on A Cell Phone

There is no driver distraction more dangerous than texting, emailing or sending any other written communication with an electronic device. While typing on a cell phone or similar device, you will be visually, manually and cognitively distracted from the task of driving.

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Using Multimedia Devices and Reading

The risks associated with using a cell phone while driving also apply to laptops, computers, tablets and all other electronic devices. Taking your attention away from the road to engage in any non-driving related task is incredibly dangerous.

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Listening to Music Safely

Though listening to music behind the wheel is not necessarily dangerous and is definitely not illegal, you must be aware of the risks your car’s stereo system presents in order to make safe decisions. Drivers who constantly switch between radio stations, adjust the volume or play music loudly are more likely to become distracted and miss important details about the roadway environment.

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Eating and Drinking While Driving

It is impossible to eat or drink without taking at least one hand off the steering wheel – this is time in which you will not be in complete control of your vehicle. A driver who is distracted by eating or drinking from an open container is 39 percent more likely to experience a collision or near-miss collision than an attentive driver.