There have always been plenty of things that contribute to distracted driving. Changing the radio station, adjusting the temperature, and fighting kids in the backseat are just a few. Now, with all of our digital devices, the danger has increased exponentially. We now have even more preoccupations, any one of which can take your eyes off the road.
The fact is that when you’re operating a machine weighing more than a ton, you should be paying close attention.
A lack of awareness of the roadway, pedestrians, and other vehicles can be deadly. It takes only one overcorrection, contact with another vehicle, or swerve for a crash to occur.
Distracted driving constitutes negligence. If your distracted driving causes you to crash, you and your insurance company are financially responsible for damages. Even if someone else causes the crash — by running a red light, for example — you can be held partially responsible.
Staying focused while operating a vehicle helps protect others and yourself from being casualties of inattention. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to distracted driving.
Know What Constitutes Distracted Driving
If you want to know how to avoid something, you need to know what causes it.
There are many causes of distracted driving. Among them are some activities you may not consider attention-diverting but really are. Causes of distracted driving fall into three categories: manual, visual, and cognitive.
- As you’d guess, you’re manually distracted when you remove your hands from the steering wheel, such as when adjusting the air conditioning.
- You’re visually distracted when you stop watching the road; for example, to look at a text on your phone.
- And you’re cognitively distracted when something takes your mind off your driving, whether that’s something device-related or just an awful day at work.
Cellphones cause huge distractions if you don’t put them away when driving. The same goes for sipping your morning coffee on the way to work. Or there’s reaching for something that fell on the floor while you’re in motion.
In short, anything that diverts your attention from the task at hand constitutes distracted driving.
Now that you know, you can figure out how to avoid distractions. It isn’t always easy, but it may be the difference between an uneventful trip and an insurance claim — or worse.
Conduct a Preflight Check
You know that before airplanes take off, pilots conduct preflight checks to make sure the plane is ready to go. They’re checking rudders and flaps and the altimeter reading. But they also check all their instruments. They set them where they need to be before departing, and so should you.
- First, secure passengers and their items in the vehicle, making sure they have what they need for the drive.
- Then, buckle yourself in the driver’s seat and safeguard your items to keep them from falling or rolling around.
- Adjust your seat, steering wheel, and temperature, clean your windshield, and set the radio on the right station and volume.
While you’re checking the positioning of your mirrors, finish combing your hair, applying makeup, and putting on your glasses. Plug in GPS coordinates if you’re relying on them. Finally, check your phone one last time for any calls or texts you need to respond to before you leave.
The secret to your vehicle pre-drive prep is time. You need to get in your car early enough to not rush the process. Make this a habit, and you will markedly reduce the chance of being distracted once you hit the highway.
Wrap Your Mind Around Driving
Focus is important in virtually everything you do. It’s a critical factor in the success of athletes, employees, students, artists, and more. The best ones focus on a goal and avoid distractions on the path to achieving it.
It’s no different when you’re driving. Your goal is to get to where you’re going, safe and sound. So you need to focus on what you’re doing during the trip.
Driving is about more than steering, applying the right amount of gas or brake pressure, and staying in your lane. You also need to constantly scan other vehicles, pedestrians, potential hazards, and signage. It requires vigilance regarding roadway conditions, intersections, speed limits, traffic slowdowns, brake lights, turn signals, and more.
There are too many driving-related matters to concentrate on to be distracted by anything unrelated. If your goal is to reach your destination safely, focus solely on that. Leave the rest for when you have arrived.
Stick to Small Talk
Automobile manufacturers have contributed to a proliferation of hands-free devices in our vehicles. It’s evidence that people believe it’s the texting, dialing, and holding of cellphones that are problematic. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, the talking itself is a key distraction.
NSC studies indicate that drivers using hands-free devices may not see up to 50% of what’s going on around them. Why? Because even if they’re looking out the windshield instead of at the screen, their mind isn’t fully engaged in driving.
The same principle applies to talking to passengers while in the vehicle or listening to the radio or an audiobook. Your brain engages with what you’re listening to rather than the task at hand. In heavy traffic, bad weather, and periods of poor visibility, this limited engagement is even more dangerous.
A little chitchat with a passenger may be OK now and again. But save the big conversations and gripping entertainment for when you’re not in transit.
Pay Attention or Pay the Piper
Most drivers have experienced that moment when they’ve looked away from the road for a millisecond. Next, they’ve found themselves slamming on the brakes, swerving to avoid something on the roadway, or careening off that roadway.
Very small distractions can have very big consequences, so avoid falling victim to distracted driving. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on where you want to go.