It’s no secret that distracted drivers cause a large percentage of car accidents in the US. Almost every driver is guilty of driving while distracted occasionally, and often drivers are distracted without even realizing it. Distracted driving not only puts the driver’s life in danger but also those of passengers, fellow motorists and pedestrians.
The truth of the matter is, there is nothing that can’t wait when it comes to driving a vehicle. Things we consider “urgent” are never worth dying over. Below are different ways you can avoid getting distracted while driving and make sure your primary concentration is always on the road in front of you.
Don’t Eat or Drink when Driving
When people think of distracted driving, they tend to think of device use. But there are many things that can distract drivers. In fact, eating while driving is documented as the worst form of distraction. Eating while driving increases the likelihood of crashing by a staggering 80%. And 65% of near miss accidents are caused by drivers who are eating as well. If you must eat or drink, pull over to the side or stop at a restaurant. Don’t buy food to eat while driving, even on a less busy road.
Eating while driving demands your concentration, which is now torn between the road and your food. Take the time to plan out your day and eat and drink at appropriate times. Even drinking coffee out of a travel mug can be dangerous if it inhibits your focus. Hot coffee can easily spill, causing you to react and take your eyes off the road. That reaction can lead to an accident within seconds.
Stick to One Task: Driving
Multitasking isn’t conducive to safe driving, and yet everyday tasks that demand attention tempt drivers to engage in things other than driving. For instance, trying to calm down a crying infant or pass food to children in the backseat are common activities for driving parents. Many parents tend to drive with one hand while calming a baby/child with the other. Rather than trying to take care of your child while driving, wait until you get to your destination or pull over to the side and tend to them before proceeding.
Driving distracted is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded. It causes deaths and injuries every day and is completely avoidable. 2021 has seen an increase in road accidents due to multitasking. You may regularly find yourself reaching around in the backseat for an item you need or extending across to the passenger’s floor to grab something you dropped. Instead, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. When you’re driving, just drive.
Don’t Text and Drive
While cellphones are a wonderful convenience, they’ve also become a massive distraction for many drivers. Too many people are texting, making phone calls, viewing images, and reading emails while behind the wheel. This habit has led to an increase in accidents, injuries, and fatalities, despite frequent warnings not to text and drive. Thousands of people lose their lives and hundreds of thousands are injured because of driving while using the phone. These accidents resulted in fatalities and life-altering physical injuries for drivers and others.
Not only is looking down at your phone dangerous, but even after hanging up or reading the text, a driver is likely to continue to think about the conversation. A distracted mind that is considering a response to a message may not be alert enough to fully focus on the road and avoid errors such as changing lanes without a blinker.
Adhere to the rule ‘don’t text and drive’. It’s also a traffic offense in nearly every state. Not only can it land you on the wrong side of the law, resulting in major fines, but it often leads to severe accidents. Texting makes you 23 times more likely to crash. Instead of using your phone while driving, put it away until you get to your destination.
Store Equipment and Containers Safely
Having loose objects around the car when driving can often be a distraction. It can be tempting to turn around and deal with your items if they roll around or get dislocated while you’re driving. That can shift attention from the road to picking objects up or seeing what is causing a noise.
Make sure you store everything safely before you begin driving. There are many options for storing items in your trunk and back seat conveniently so that when you make sharp turns you don’t have loose items causing problems. These loose items can also be dangerous in the event of an accident. Objects that are not secure can fly around the car in an abrupt collision and cause further injury.
Don’t Listen to Immersive Audio Books while Driving
While listening to most audiobooks or podcasts are a harmless activity during driving, some can be a dangerous distraction. In general, listening to audio has been shown to be a passive activity that leaves your mind free to focus on the road. However, an audiobook or podcast that is very immersive or interactive can have disastrous consequences. Anything that demands all or most of your concentration is not a good idea when driving.
In addition, many people use their phones to play audiobooks. This means drivers may pause, play, and adjust their books or podcasts during driving, which is a dangerous distraction.
Curious if you’re guilty of driving distracted? Take this quick quiz and find out.
Don’t Drink and Drive
It’s against the law to drink alcohol and operate any vehicle on the road in the US. If guilty, you can end up paying hefty fines and spending time in jail. However, even with tough penalties and DUI’s, an estimated 300,000 people still drink and drive every day across the country.
Drinking impairs your mind and the ability to focus on tasks that require concentration, such as driving. Even on less busy roads, it’s easy to wind up in a ditch or rammed into a tree due to blurred vision. Many families have lost loved ones due to drunk drivers.
Even in accidents that don’t result in fatalities, the driver and others are often left with life-altering injuries. They may no longer be able to work or care for themselves and have to rely on others. With that in mind, it’s best to avoid driving even after a couple drinks and take a taxi or get a ride instead.
Be aware that even if you are not drinking, others on the road may not be as responsible as you. Be extra aware of drivers around you, especially in the evening, weekends, and on holidays where people tend to drink and then make the terrible decision to get behind the wheel.
Pull Over and Rest when Drowsy
In the US, drowsiness is a leading cause of crashes, contributing to over 37% of all road accidents. These accidents end up causing fatalities and severe injuries, all because the driver didn’t get enough sleep in advance. It can be nearly impossible to focus on the road when extreme tiredness is distracting you from the road.
Truthfully, driving for a long time can be tiresome, and at some point, your body starts demanding rest. As a result, you start nodding off. It’s better to find a place to sleep or pull over for a few minutes than to try to fight the urge to sleep.
Another reason for feeling drowsy is medication. If the medication you’re on says not to operate heavy machinery, avoid even driving on quiet roads as part of vehicle safety. It’s better to call a cab or ask for help getting somewhere than risk your life and others’ lives. If you are unsure about the effects of your medication, ask your doctor.
Drive within the Speed Limit
Thousands of car crashes are caused every year by drivers exceeding posted speed limits. In addition to the potential dangers of crashing, accidents also cause drivers millions of dollars every year in property damage and medical bills. Employers can even be fined up to $16,500 if their employees are in an accident while driving a company vehicle.
Making sure to pay attention to the speed limit as you drive is a great way to avoid distraction. It keeps you focused on the road and helps you drive more safely.
Don’t Drive Mad
Every time you drive when angry, you’re mentally distracted and distraction is never safe. Angry drivers are more likely to experience road rage, which is dangerous and distracting. Getting cut off by another driver is a leading cause of incidences of road rage in the US. But a calm driver wouldn’t get so worked up about a simple driving interaction. An angry driver is more likely to end up flying off the handle, causing shouting matches, sporadic honking of horns, and even dangerous actions like driving others off the road.
Consequently, about 50% of road rage cases cause accidents due to blinding anger and distraction from the task at hand- driving. People get so caught up in the rage and “unfairness” of it all that they forget they’re driving or about the dangerous consequences that may occur as the outcome of their behavior.
It’s always better to take some time to cool off if something on the road causes you to want to lash out. Road rage causes about 1/3 of collisions each year and is entirely avoidable. Aggressive driving also often causes an angry or anxious response from other drivers- leading to more distracted driving and less focus on the road. It’s therefore safest to simply avoid driving when you’re feeling angry or upset.
Limit Conversations with Passengers
Driving with other people in the car can be challenging, especially when they want to talk. While talking helps you not to doze off, it can also be a form of distraction when driving. For instance, you can easily miss signs on the road or ignore posted speed limits. While texting is the most alarming form of distracted driving, since it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention, activities such as a simple conversation can also be an undue distraction.
Additionally, emotional conversations can cause your mind to wander off as strong feelings start to arise. Perhaps the passenger is sharing a traumatic story or a funny one. As you tear up or laugh, the emotional response can affect your driving. So it’s better to limit the amount of conversation in your car while driving. Save it for when you get to your destination or pull over if it’s urgent.
Limit Use of Your GPS
GPS is an excellent way of getting to an unknown destination quickly. However, even that can potentially lead to trouble if you’re not careful. Whether the voice instructions cause you to lose focus, or plugging in an address or looking at where to turn is the problem, a GPS, or smartphone map app can quickly turn into a distraction.
Some drivers tend to lose focus on the road and concentrate on what the navigation system is trying to communicate. The better option is to stop somewhere to plug in the information and make sure you have a general idea of where you’re going in case your phone or GPS dies and you get lost.
Apply Make-Up Before Driving
Shockingly, over 450,000 accidents happen annually in the US because of women who are applying makeup while driving. Applying makeup is a distracting task and always involves looking away from the road. While it may seem like it’s just a few seconds to glance in the mirror, it’s enough of a distraction to cause devastating consequences.
Most states have even penalized the application of any make-up while driving, resulting in hefty fines of over $150. Such penalties increase your insurance premium as well. Also, you can end up facing serious legal charges if this distraction leads to an accident, especially when the accident is severe.
More than six million accidents happen in the US annually. Distractions account for a considerable and growing percentage. It’s important to take the time to find ways to limit distractions and focus on driving. If this becomes a common practice, you greatly decrease your chances of being involved an accident. Remember that you put yourself as well as passengers, motorists, and pedestrians at risk if you drive while distracted. Focusing on the road as you drive can help you get to your destination safely and protect those around you.