How To Recognize A Distracted Driver

How To Recognize A Distracted Driver

As you make your daily commute, staying alert and aware of your surroundings is key to arriving safely at your destination. However, not all drivers on the road demonstrate the same level of attentiveness. Distracted driving is an increasing threat, and recognizing the signs of an distracted driver can help you take defensive action. Watch for vehicles that are drifting, braking erratically or driving inconsistently, as these are indications the driver's attention is divided. Drivers who are texting, eating or engaged in animated conversations often take their eyes off the road for dangerous periods of time. Don't assume other drivers see you or will follow the rules of the road. Remain vigilant, keep a safe distance from unpredictable drivers and get out of their way when possible. An Austin Car Accident Lawyer can help get started with your claim. Your life is valuable, so do your part to avoid becoming a victim of someone else's negligence or inattention. Staying safe means staying alert to the threats around you, including those posed by distracted drivers.

Eyes Off the Road: Looking at Phone or Screen

One of the most dangerous signs of a distracted driver is when their eyes are off the road, focused instead on their phone or other electronic screen. According to studies, texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely. Glancing at your phone for just two seconds while driving at 55 mph means you've traveled the length of a football field without looking at the road.

There are a few indications that a driver may be distracted by their phone or other device:

  1. They appear to be looking down frequently at their lap or the center console. This suggests they are reading or sending text messages, checking notifications, or scrolling through social media.
  2. Their vehicle is drifting within the lane or swerving slightly. This could indicate the driver only has one hand on the wheel or is looking away from the road.
  3. Their speed is inconsistent. The driver may slow down or brake erratically if they look up to find traffic has slowed or stopped in front of them. They may also accelerate without cause as they become engaged in a phone activity.
  4. They are delayed in reacting to traffic signals or the actions of other vehicles. A distracted driver is less likely to notice quickly when the light turns green, or when the vehicle in front of them has changed lanes or turned.

In today's world of constant connectivity, it can be difficult to disconnect even while driving. However, for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and everyone else on the road, put your phone away when operating a vehicle. No text, social media post, or email is worth risking lives over. Stay focused, avoid distractions, and help reduce accidents by keeping your eyes on the road.

Delayed Reaction Times: Not Braking or Changing Lanes Promptly

A distracted driver can be identified by delayed reaction times, such as not braking or changing lanes promptly.

•Not braking quickly when needed. Distracted drivers often do not apply the brakes as quickly as an attentive driver would in an emergency situation or when traffic slows or stops suddenly. This delayed braking puts the distracted driver and others at risk of an accident.

• Hesitating or not changing lanes when needed. When a distracted driver needs to change lanes due to traffic conditions, they may not do so as promptly as an attentive driver. They may miss opportunities to change lanes or hesitate and seem indecisive. This impacts the flow of traffic and can lead to unsafe lane changes at the last moment.

• Seeming unaware of surrounding vehicles. A distracted driver may not notice other vehicles around them, such as in adjacent lanes or behind them. They do not react to the speed or actions of other motorists as attentively. This lack of awareness of surrounding traffic further endangers the distracted driver and others.

In summary, if a driver exhibits delayed or impaired ability to brake, change lanes, or notice surrounding vehicles in a prompt and safe manner, they may well be distracted. All drivers should avoid distractions and be fully focused on the road and operating their vehicle safely. Lives depend on it.

Weaving or Drifting in the Lane: Unable to Maintain a Steady Course

Weaving or drifting in and out of your lane is one of the most obvious signs of a distracted driver. If a vehicle is unable to maintain a steady speed and course within their lane, the driver's attention is likely divided. There are a few possible explanations for this behavior:

Texting While Driving

The driver may be looking at or typing on their mobile phone, rather than focusing on the road ahead. Studies show texting while driving impairs a driver as much as driving while intoxicated. Their reaction times are slowed, and they are less able to respond quickly to avoid an accident.


The driver could be excessively tired or even falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous, as the driver can nod off for just a few seconds with disastrous consequences. If a vehicle is weaving or drifting, especially late at night, drowsiness is a likely possibility.

Distracted by Passengers

The driver may be engaged in an animated conversation or argument with passengers in the vehicle, taking their attention away from the road. Loud music, electronic devices, eating or drinking while driving can also distract a driver and cause impaired vehicle control and wandering within the lane.

Medical Issue

In some cases, weaving or drifting could indicate the driver is experiencing a medical emergency such as low blood sugar, a heart attack or stroke. If the vehicle continues to weave or drift for an extended period, especially at inconsistent speeds, a medical issue could be the cause. In this case, the driver may need immediate assistance.

Staying alert for the warning signs of a distracted or incapacitated driver can help prevent a collision. If you observe a vehicle demonstrating an inability to maintain proper lane control, increase your following distance and avoid passing them whenever possible. Report reckless or unsafe driving to the authorities if the issue continues or you suspect the driver needs medical help.

Excessive Speeding Up or Slowing Down: Erratic Changes in Speed

Excessive speeding up or slowing down, known as erratic changes in speed, is a sign that a driver may be distracted. Sudden braking or accelerating can indicate the driver’s attention is divided, preventing them from maintaining a consistent speed.

Drivers who are distracted by mobile devices, eating or drinking while driving, or other in-vehicle activities often accelerate and brake abruptly as their focus shifts between the road and their distraction. Their reaction times are impaired, causing them to brake or speed up suddenly when they realize traffic conditions have changed. These erratic changes in speed endanger other vehicles traveling at a consistent rate of speed as well as pedestrians and cyclists.

Watch for vehicles that speed up rapidly only to brake hard shortly thereafter, especially in traffic. Drivers who seem unable to maintain a steady speed, fluctuating 5-10 miles per hour or more, may have their attention diverted. Excessive slowing when approaching a traffic light or stop sign is also indicative of distracted driving, as the driver fails to recognize the need to slow down in a timely manner due to inattention.

If you observe a vehicle exhibiting erratic changes in speed that seem unrelated to traffic conditions or road hazards, increase your following distance to this vehicle. Their unpredictable driving poses risks to vehicles around them, and additional space provides more time to react in the event of sudden braking. You may also report dangerously distracted driving to the local authorities to help improve road safety for all.

By remaining alert for signs of erratic speed changes, defensive drivers and vigilant passengers can help make the roads safer. Recognizing distracted drivers exhibiting unpredictable speeding up and slowing down, and reacting accordingly, reduces risks for all sharing the road.

Aggressive or Impulsive Behavior: Unexpected Acceleration, Tailgating or Cutting Off Other Vehicles

Aggressive or reckless behavior while driving is a sign that a driver may be distracted. Watch out for drivers who accelerate or change lanes unexpectedly, tailgate other vehicles, or cut off other drivers.

Sudden Changes in Speed or Direction

Distracted drivers may suddenly accelerate, brake hard, or swerve without cause. They are not fully focused on the road and traffic conditions, so they react abruptly when they realize they need to make a change. Watch out for drivers who speed up or slow down dramatically when there are no obvious reasons to do so.


Tailgating, or driving close behind another vehicle, is dangerous and against the law. Distracted drivers often tailgate because they are not paying close attention to how much space they have between themselves and other vehicles. They may suddenly realize they are too close to the car in front of them and slam on their brakes. Keep a safe distance from tailgating drivers in case they brake unexpectedly.

Cutting Off Other Vehicles

Distracted drivers frequently change lanes without warning, cutting off other vehicles in the process. They are not fully aware of the other vehicles around them or the proper amount of space needed to safely change lanes. Watch out for drivers who cut quickly in front of you or other vehicles. They could potentially cause an accident due to their inattentiveness.

In summary, be extremely cautious around aggressive or reckless drivers who frequently change speed or direction suddenly, tailgate, or cut off other vehicles. Their distracted and impulsive behavior puts everyone around them in danger. Remain alert and keep a safe distance from these drivers whenever possible. Defensive driving techniques may help avoid potential collisions related to distracted drivers.

Call Fletcher Law For Your Distracted Driver Injury Case

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The Houston car accident attorneys at Fletcher Law have extensive experience handling cases involving distracted driving accidents. We strongly advise anyone injured by a distracted driver to call us immediately for a free consultation regarding their legal options.

Distracted driving is illegal and extremely dangerous. Some signs that the other driver involved in your accident may have been distracted include:

•Drifting out of their lane or making sudden lane changes: A distracted driver may swerve or drift between lanes as their attention is diverted from the road.

•Delayed reaction times: It may take the distracted driver longer to notice traffic signals or brake lights and react appropriately. This delayed reaction time can easily lead to rear-end collisions.

•Failure to stop at traffic controls: Distracted drivers may fail to notice stop signs, traffic lights, or other signals meant to control the flow of traffic. This significantly increases the chance of an accident at intersections or crosswalks.

•Sudden braking: If a distracted driver suddenly realizes traffic ahead of them has slowed or stopped, they may slam on their brakes abruptly in an attempt to avoid a collision. This sudden braking action often results in the vehicle behind them crashing into them.

•Head down or eyes not on the road: The most obvious sign is a driver focused on their phone, dashboard display screen or other device rather than the roadway in front of them. Their eyes will be diverted away from the road for prolonged periods.

If any of these signs were present at the time of your accident, the other driver was most likely distracted and liable for your injuries and losses. Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Houston can determine who is at fault in your accident and work to recover the maximum compensation on your behalf. Call Fletcher Law today for a free case review.