Getting distracted while we’re driving - we’re all guilty of it at some point - but it's more serious than you may realize.
Of the 15 to 19 year-olds involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent were distracted at the time. Twenty-three percent of drivers in fatal crashes are in their 20s, but they account for 27 percent of all distracted drivers and 38 percent of the distracted drivers using cell phones.
While cell phone use in the car is most common in younger drivers, older drivers aren’t exempt from their own distractions. How many times have we eaten lunch while speeding down the highway, looked down to change a radio station or CD, or had an animated conversation with a passenger?
Any distraction can lead to tragedy. Take your eyes of the road for just a few seconds, while you’re driving 55 miles per hour, you’ve just traveled the length of a football field without looking.
Let’s all stay a little safer out on the road by avoiding common distractions.
Common Driving Distractions
According to Distraction.gov, a website devoted to preventing distracted driving, there are several common distractions:
- Texting which requires your eyes, your hands, and your mind to focus on something other than driving
- Using your cell phone at all, which includes talking to someone else
- Eating and drinking, a common thing in our busy go, go, go world
- Talking to passengers
- Grooming, which can include brushing your teeth, shaving, changing clothes, and applying make-up
- Reading maps, as old-fashioned as that seems
- Using your GPS
- Watching a video
- Adjusting the radio or your MP3 player
Some of these sound laughable, don’t they? Who shaves while driving down the road? You’d be surprised at what people do when they think they can multi-task.
Avoiding Distractions While Behind the Wheel
The reality is that we can’t multi-task, at least not as well as we think we can. When you take your attention off the road in front of you or the traffic around you, it takes only a few seconds for an accident to happen. When was the last time you glanced at your phone, looked up, and had to slam on your brakes? Probably more recently than you want to admit. So how do we avoid the distractions and stay safe?
Put your phone away. Put it in the glove box, your purse, or somewhere else that makes it hard to reach. If you find that too difficult, find a distracted driving app that can block you from doing things while you’re driving or send out automated messages for you.
Get up a bit earlier so that you're not getting ready for work or school in the car while you’re driving. It sounds like it’ll save time, but taking the extra minute to put on your clothes or brush your teeth at home is best. If that won’t work, get ready when you arrive at your destination or pull into a gas station or fast food place and use their bathroom. Whatever you do, don’t groom yourself in the car.
Install and use hands-free, voice-activated options in your vehicle. Newer vehicles are beginning to offer this as a standard feature more often. While talking is a distraction by itself, it’s much better than picking up your phone or looking down at the console. If you’ve got the option to go hands-free, use it.
Try not to eat while driving. It sounds great to say “never eat in the car” but we know it’s not easy. Do it less often, and you’ll reduce your chances of an accident.
Don’t read, watch videos, or text while driving. There’s no alternative to this. Just don’t do it.
The best way to avoid distracted driving is to focus on what you’re doing. You can talk, listen to the radio, and sip on your water in the car, but your main job is to operate a motor vehicle safely with your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Remembering this will help you avoid accidents and keep everyone safer.