Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous activities you can participate in. According to the National Safety Council, over 100 Americans are injured in accidents related to distracted driving each day. Worse, 9 people die every day due to distracted driving. As one of the most easily preventable accidents on the road, it’s our responsibility as drivers to make sure we’re doing our part to stay focused on driving. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and we invite you to join us in taking these six steps to avoid distracted driving, not just in April, but throughout the whole year.
1. Don’t Make Calls on the Road
We all know we’re not supposed to type on our phones when driving, but many people still use cell phones to make calls. Even with hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets or in-car microphones, driving while talking on the phone is incredibly dangerous. While you may be able to use both hands and keep an eye on the road while talking, your mind is usually not focused on the task of driving. When you talk on the phone you are more likely to be worrying about your conversation as opposed to the other cars and pedestrians around you. Avoid an accident and stay focused as you drive by committing to making calls only when you’re stopped or in extreme emergencies.
2. Get Rid of Electronics
Your cell phone does a lot more than make phone calls, and many people have other electronic devices nearby when driving. Texting and driving or otherwise using a device is one of the most dangerous things you can do while operating a vehicle. In fact, drivers who use an electronic device while driving are 4 times more likely to get into a serious accident. Put your phone out of reach or power it off to help avoid the temptation of grabbing it while driving.
In addition to your handheld devices, many newer cars come equipped with infotainment centers in the dashboard. These usually involve large display screens with GPS capabilities, music apps or general information about your vehicle. While these displays can certainly be helpful when you’re parked, avoid using them when driving. Other devices can also lead to distracted driving. Many people enjoy wearing smart watches to stay easily connected to friends, family and work while on the go. If you find yourself easily distracted by the screen on your wrist, consider removing it while driving and storing it in the glove box or another spot where it’s out of sight.
3. Secure Objects and Passengers Before Moving
Before you get ready to pull out of your garage or parking spot, take a moment to make sure objects in your car are secure. This might include your water bottle or purse sitting on the passenger seat, or a bag with your gym clothes laying open in the back. Securing these items before you get on the road will help you avoid reaching to pick them up while driving.
Similarly, if you are driving with pets or small children, make sure that they are secured and comfortable before leaving. A crying baby or whining dog doesn’t help you stay focused on the road and can easily distract you from what you are doing. Of course, you won’t always be able to complete your drive without a dropped toy or an overly-excited pet. When these things happen, be sure to pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and help your passenger. Don’t attempt to clean up spills or fix an issue by reaching into the back seat.
4. Avoid Adjustments While Driving
Almost everyone is guilty of fiddling with the radio or adjusting the driver’s seat while driving. Even though these acts seem relatively harmless, they take your attention away from the road. Before you head for the open road, make sure you are comfortable and everything is set up in your car how you like it. Adjust mirrors, seat height and the steering wheel prior to starting the ignition. Likewise, make sure you are comfortable with the clothes you are wearing and avoid personal grooming such as brushing your hair or tying a tie while driving. For example, if it’s a chilly morning and you are wearing a jacket but have the heat cranked in your car, it’s probably a good idea to remove your jacket before setting off.
5. Pull Over When Drowsy
Driving drowsy is almost as dangerous as driving under the influence, yet many people still do it. When you’re tired, you may think that pushing through to your destination is the right thing to do. You might even think that driving faster to get home quicker is a good idea. It’s usually much safer, however, for you to pull over and take a quick nap or rest for a while. Look for a safe place to pull off the road and avoid resting along busy highways. Try to find a nearby public parking lot or rest area to get some sleep before continuing to your destination.
6. Don’t Eat While Driving
Almost all drivers have rushed out the door in the morning on their way to work or school and decided to eat in the car. Unfortunately, eating and driving is an easy way to be distracted behind the wheel. If you are running late and decide to take your meal to go, make sure you are not trying to eat something that is messy or easily falls apart. If you can, try to put off eating until you reach your destination.
Many people choose to eat in the car when on long road trips or after a long commute. It’s much safer, however, you take the time to stop and eat. In addition to keeping you from being distracted while driving, stopping for a meal lets you rest for a few minutes. A short break can help you stay more alert when you get back on the road.
Staying Safe While Driving
Avoiding distractions while driving might be the easiest way to prevent accidents on the road. When you’re in the driver’s seat, you have one job: to focus on the road and drive safely. You can help yourself and others stay focused while driving using these six tips and sharing them on social media using the hashtag #YouHaveOneJob.