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Can you spot a distracted driver on the road?

You probably understand that distracted driving poses a risk to you on the road. Perhaps you refuse to text and drive. That is a very smart decision that can help keep you and other people safe. However, you are still at risk because of the people who do text on the road.

It's only natural to want to do something to improve your chances of safety and reduce your risk of an incident caused by a distracted driver. Your best way of reducing risk related to other people texting while driving is to teach yourself how to identify distracted drivers while at the wheel.

The more proficient you become at identifying people engaged in risky driving behaviors, the more natural your avoidance of them will become. Researchers have proven that they can train artificial intelligence systems to identify distracted drivers. If a computer can learn to do it, a human certainly can, too.

Look for visible light or an inclined head

You may not always be able to see the hand positions of drivers. You can't necessarily tell if or where they are holding the steering wheel. However, it is often relatively easy to spot the telltale glare of a cellphone screen on someone's steering wheel or clothing. This is particularly true in the evening, early morning and night. Even during the day, however, you can still see the light given off by a cellphone.

You can also notice if someone's head is pointed downward. That may be a warning sign that they have a cellphone in their lap or held against the steering wheel. People who are not looking directly out of their car or scanning traffic are dangerous, anyway. Whether they are looking at something in the passenger seat or talking to their child through the rearview mirror, they are not monitoring traffic in the way that they should.

Watch for erratic driving patterns

One of the telltale signs of taking your eyes off the road is temporarily losing control of the vehicle and rapidly readjusting. Many drivers who text at the wheel will look down at their phone. At that time, their vehicle may begin to lean in one direction or the other. They will then jerk the wheel to correct the direction of their vehicle when they look up from their phone.

If you notice someone doing this even once, you should leave plenty of space between their vehicle and yours. Ideally, you should change your route to avoid sharing road space with someone so obviously driving unsafely.

If a distracted driver does crash into your vehicle, whether they t-bone you or rear end you, you have rights under the law. Learning more about your rights can help you make an informed decision about your options after a distracted driving crash.

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