According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes caused by distracted driving (1). Activities such as texting, talking on your cell phone and eating are considered distracting, but texting is the most dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction (2):
- Visual: when you take your eyes off the road
- Manual: when you take your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: when you take your mind off driving (1)
So, in recognition of Distracted Driver Awareness Month, let’s chat and chew about ways you can avoid being preoccupied behind the wheel.
Put the phone down. I’m not perfect – I’m always tempted to check email or a text at a red light or if I’m in traffic. The reality is, nearly one in five crashes (17%) involved a distracted driver in 2011, so waiting until you are home or at your destination to check your phone is definitely the smartest approach.
Set the GPS before you go. Ever see a sign with the message, ‘know before you go?’ While the saying generally applies to traffic, programming your route ahead of time can decrease your chances of being distracted by your GPS or phone app once you’re already on the road.
Securely fasten your seat belt AND possessions. It is one thing to wear your seat belt when you drive (or ride), but it’s another to make sure all your loose possessions are secure as well. There’s nothing more annoying—or distracting—on a long drive than a rattling noise or a bag that flings from side to side in the backseat. You might try to fix the issue mid-drive, so avoid this temptation by placing everything in a safe spot ahead of time. Also, don’t forget to make sure children and pets are securely fastened as well!
Smart snacking is essential. If you’re like me, snacks are essential during long car rides. Make sure, however, your choice of snack is easy to manage while driving – avoid the Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods to Eat While Driving on your next road trip! If possible though, try and eat meals before or after your trip—or stop and park somewhere along the way.
Ask for help. The easiest way to avoid being distracted on the road is to enlist in help from passengers. Have someone else who can navigate or grab you a bottle of water from the cooler in the back—ASK them. Why run the risk of getting in an accident when you have other helping hands right next to you?
Avoid getting in a wreck by utilizing safe driving skills, but also recognize when other drivers aren’t being safe. If you notice a car is swerving, that driver might be texting or fiddling for something in their backseat. As you travel this summer, make sure you use the helpful tips above to ensure a safe arrival.