Anything that can deter your attention from driving can be defined as distracted driving. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that 80% of accidents and 16% of highway deaths are the result of unfocused drivers. It may seem almost impossible to avoid driving without inattention what with today’s technology, convenience, and the constant busy lives we live. So how can we learn to avoid distracted driving and common interferences behind the wheel?
What Is Distracted Driving
Distractions are classified in three different ways:
- Visually - occurs when your eyes are taken off the road.
- Manually - involves removing your hands from the steering wheel.
- Cognitively - occurs when a driver’s focus is not on the task at hand such as “daydreaming.”
Driving requires your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in can be considered a distraction and increases your risk of crash or injury.
Roadside commotions, raucous passengers, crying children, unharnessed animals, adjusting the radio--entertainment or navigation systems, grooming, and eating are just a few distractions that can cause dangerous situations behind the wheel. With busy schedules, longer commutes, and the convenience of fast food restaurants, driving and eating has become almost commonplace, but the attempt to save time is not worth the risk of injuring yourself or others while on the road.
The most common thing that takes away from a driver’s focus is the use of mobile devices behind the wheel. Texting is by far the most alarming diversion. Reading or sending text messages while driving takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. According to the NHTSA, that’s comparable to driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. This includes the use of any application while on the road including taking photos or selfies, checking/drafting emails, or posting to social media sites. While it’s tempting and may seem harmless to stay connected by texting and driving, or taking a quick scroll through social media, those actions could be fatal or cause injury to yourself or others.
Though several states have passed laws related to distracted driving, no state completely bans the use of mobile devices, including hands-free operation. Education has spread through public service announcements and cellular providers have discouraged the use of devices while driving with the “It Can Wait” campaign.
So, what can you do to help prevent distractions?
- Adjust your mirrors, seats, and temperature control before moving.
- Turn off your phone and place out of reach. Ask passengers to handle all incoming calls or texts.
- Secure all pets or children prior to departure.
- Elect a passenger to assist with directions or, if driving alone, plan out your destination and route in advance.
- Try to avoid food and beverage consumption, especially hot or messy foods. Be sure drinks are properly secured.
- Teach children the importance of proper behavior in a vehicle; explain how distracting certain behaviors can be while on the road.
- Don’t make or take phone calls. Pull over or call at a safer time.
- Be an example for teens and children by not texting and driving.
- Speak up to stop other drivers from driving while distracted.
Remember that not all hands-free devices are interruption proof; be sure to program all devices prior to moving your vehicle. By leaving earlier or planning your day better, you’ll avoid other disturbances on the road. While not all accidents are avoidable, you can prevent an accident by making sure there are no distractions the next time you’re behind the wheel.