Distracted driving is more common than many of us think and it isn’t always the other driver to blame. We may even be guilty of distracted driving ourselves at times. Accidents can happen quickly and every second can make a difference, giving you the extra time you need to avoid a tragedy or costly collision.
Cell phones usually get the blame in our uber-connected model world. However, distractions can come from a number of sources, many of which have been reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a recent study, nearly 10% of fatal crashes were attributed to distracted driving. About 15% of these accidents were due to cell phone use. Over 85% of distracted driving fatalities were due to other causes.
Any time we take our eyes off the road or our mind is diverted from driving safely, we’re distracted. It could be something as simple as fiddling with the climate controls, or it could be other vehicle occupants. Eating your lunch on the go may even be putting you and others at risk.
Many areas of the US and Canada have banned texting while driving, which is a common cause for accidents, particularly for drivers under the age of 30. However, accidents tied to cell phone usage while driving affect every age group. If you really need to send a message to someone, consider parking someplace safe even if your smartphone is connected through Bluetooth.
Tips to reduce distraction-related accidents
– Get your ducks in a row before you go. If you’ll be using GPS, set your route before you start driving. Also, locate your sunglasses or anything else you may need while driving.
– Put your phone notifications on silent mode. Most of us reach for our phones out of habit when we hear a notification. That’s a distraction you don’t need. Social media, email, and text messages can wait until you stop driving.
– Pull over if there is a distraction. Maybe it’s the kids in the back or an anxious pet jumping and pacing in the backseat, but for everyone’s safety, pull over and get everyone settled. Stopping the car is also a less stressful solution.
– Ask your passengers for help. If you need to change radio stations or adjust the climate control, your passengers can handle these tasks safely while you concentrate on driving. If you’re driving by yourself, consider stopping the car before adjusting anything on the dash. It’s better to get wherever you’re going a few seconds later and to arrive safely.
Of course, it’s always best to drive when well-rested as well. There’s a risk even on short trips. Well you may not have as much risk of dozing off on a short trip, fatigue can affect reaction time. Combine a slowed reaction time with an all-too-common distraction, and the risk of an accident is multiplied.