April is officially Distracted Driving Month. Time to generate awareness about the dangers of driving while taking your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and your mind off the task of operating your moving vehicle safely.
However, one month is simply not enough time to dedicate to such dangerous behavior. Every day of every month, every driver should be focused on avoiding distracted driving
More than 3,000 people lost their lives in distracted driving accidents on U.S. roadways in 2020. Even the most advanced safety features may not be able to save your life every time an accident occurs. Remember, the most effective safety feature in your vehicle is you, the driver.
What is Distracted Driving?
There are three common categories of distractions that can affect driver behavior:
- Cognitive distractions take your mind off the task of driving.
- Visual distractions take your eyes off the road.
- Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel.
Distractions can slow down or obstruct the perception, decision, action chain. When your eyes are not on the road, or your mind is not on the task, you are more likely to miss cues in the visual field that would indicate changes and require some form of adjustment. If your mind is occupied with something other than driving, you are less likely to make an informed decision, and more likely to make it quickly.
What are Examples of Distracted Driving?
This technology is the most common culprit that creates cognitive, visual, and manual distractions. Whether talking, texting, or interacting with apps, using your cell phone while driving is dangerous because it takes your eyes off the road and keeps you from focusing fully on what’s going on around you. Texting while driving can reduce your driving performance equal to driving while drunk. Texting can wait. Whatever the message, it’s not worth your life. It can wait until you get to your destination.
Loud Music or Passengers:
Other passengers or loud music can create auditory distractions that may make it harder for you to hear what is going on around you. They also take your mind off the driving task, creating cognitive distractions.
You may be in a hurry to get to work, or school, or home at the end of the day. But eating or drinking while driving involves at least one kind of distraction: manual. Even if you don’t stop to think about your food, you can’t eat without taking at least one hand off the wheel.
Anything and everything can be a distraction. From staring at other drivers or accidents on the side of the road, to reading billboards, to personal grooming or changing out CDs, there are many opportunities to get distracted. Wait until you are safely stopped at a red light to adjust the radio or climate controls.
Whether it’s eating or calling a friend, reading a text, or reaching for something in the backseat, every time you drive while distracted you increase your chances of death, it’s as simple as that.
Even if you think you’re a fine driver who won’t fall prey to these distractions, you can’t account for the behavior of everyone around you. You don’t know whether the driver behind you, or the one merging into your lane, is driving while distracted. That’s one more reason you need to be a defensive driver.
How Can I Avoid Distracted Driving?
Distractions can be avoided if they are managed correctly. Follow these tips to help you eliminate distractions while driving:
Secure lose objects
Before you put your vehicle into gear, make sure any loose items are appropriately secured so they don’t roll around. By storing these items first, you can eliminate the temptation to pick them up while driving. This is especially important for delivery drivers who may be carrying multiple items.
Make adjustments before you leave
Check your rearview and side mirrors and reposition them if needed while the vehicle is stopped. Set climate controls and select your radio station so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road later during your journey. If you’re using GPS, enter the information beforehand so you know where you’re going and don’t need to type any information while driving.
Get ready at home
It may seem like an obvious task to avoid but grooming while driving is a common distraction. Comb your hair and apply your makeup before you leave your home. If you must freshen up in your vehicle, be sure you are safely parked before looking in the mirror.
Don’t eat or drink
A dropped fry or dripping ketchup can trigger a dangerous chain of events. A lot can happen when you look down for one brief moment. The car in front of you may suddenly brake to turn. A dog could dart into the street in front of you. You might miss seeing a pothole in the road that could redirect your vehicle into another lane. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. It makes good sense.
Put away your phone
Mobile devices are the number one distraction to drivers. Turn off your phone. Enable the feature “Do Not Disturb While Driving.” Place your phone in the glove compartment or center console. Place your phone in your purse and put them both in the trunk. Use hands-free options if you must be able to accept calls.
There are many options available to help you avoid using the phone while driving. There is no excuse for texting while driving.
Distracted driving can affect everyone—whether you are a teen driving for the first, a mature driver with years of road experience, an employee with a job that requires driving to and from customer locations, or an innocent passenger or pedestrian walking on a sidewalk. Lives are at stake when drivers are distracted.
Be Part of the Solution
It will take each of us to commit to eliminating distractions to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities related to distracted driving.
“Distracted Driving Month” is a great time to learn how to become a safer driver. DriveSafe Online defensive driving courses are easy to take, affordable, and a valuable source of information. Join us and become part of the solution for safer roads.