According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured every day in crashes as a result of distracted drivers. With the number of distracted drivers on the rise, it’s important to remember that when you drive distracted, not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re also risking the lives of everyone else on the road around you. In fact, even if you check your phone or reach for something in your car while you’re at a stoplight, you remain distracted on average for the next 27 seconds.
In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we want to offer some tips to help you keep yourself and your family safe on the road. These tips are applicable to any driver with any level of experience, and can reduce your risk of a distracted driving related accident while helping you develop safer driving habits.
What qualifies as distracted driving?
Cell phone use is often the top concern when it comes to distracted driving, but did you know there are actually three main categories of distractions: cognitive, manual, and visual? Cognitive distractions occur when your mind isn’t focused on the task of driving — for example, if you were driving while deep in thought about a problem at work or home. A manual distraction is when your hands come off the steering wheel for any period of time — for example, if you’re on a cell phone or reaching for something in the backseat. A visual distraction is when you take your eyes off the road. This could be to look at a notification on your phone or a child in the backseat of your car. Often times, common dangerous driving behaviors incorporate multiple types of distractions — exponentially increasing your risk of an accident.
What are the implications of distracted driving?
Did you know that sending or reading text that takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds is equivalent to driving the length on a football field with your eyes closed? Even the smallest distraction can have major implications and result in a tragic accident. According to AAA, “Over 84% of drivers recognize the danger from cell phone distractions and find it ‘unacceptable’ that drivers text or send email while driving. Nevertheless, 36% of these same people admit to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month.” Teen drivers are especially at risk on the road and are the largest age group for accidents related to distracted driving at 58%.
Tips to reduce distracted driving behaviors
- Set your GPS before turning on your car and only adjust your route if your car is in a parked position.
- Turn your phone on “airplane” or “Do Not Disturb” mode to eliminate notifications and reduce the urge to check your phone.
- Keep your phone in the back seat or tucked into your center console if you think you’ll be tempted to reach for it.
- If driving with young kids or pets, make sure they’re properly secured in a seat or crate and not roaming around the car.
- Eat your meal before you get in the car or pull over and park to eat if needed.
- Keep items you may need accessible, such as beverages, sunglasses, or tissues, so you don’t need to rummage around for them while driving.
- Let your passengers act as support instead of a distraction — they can do things like change the music, update your GPS, or help passengers in the backseat so you don’t have to.
- Check in with family, friends, or employers before driving so they know you won’t be able to take calls.