On your drive home from work, are you reviewing your evening activities on your calendar, texting your friend, or speaking with your spouse on the phone? If so, you're being a distracted driver which can be deadly.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and a nice opportunity to look at how distracted you are when behind the wheel. While you may think you're good at texting and driving, you're really one bad decision away from an accident that can lead to horrific consequences.
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in car accidents involving distracted drivers. This could be you on your way home from work, or your teenager coming home from school. Think about the devastating consequences to your family if you or a loved one doesn't come home because they were driving distracted.
Distracted driving isn't just texting or talking on the phone. Distracted driving is anything that redirects your attention to something other than driving. Distracted driving activities include:
- Eating and drinking
- Talking on the phone
- Applying makeup
- Making entries on your infotainment system
When doing two things at the same time, your brain is unable to give 100% to either task which can lead to a crash.
My vehicle is a 2008. Therefore, I have a regular radio with a CD player. I don't have a fancy infotainment center with a backup camera and built-in GPS. According to the National Safety Council, 53% of drivers believe these infotainment systems are safe because, in some instances, they allow for hands-free interaction. In reality, these systems are more about convenience than safety.
Here are some of the benefits of your car’s infotainment system:
- Heads-up display and intuitive scroll wheel for screen control;
- Pair your iPhone and use Siri through voice command which is nearly seamless;
- Large buttons are good for fat-fingered drivers;
- Reads your text messages to you;
- The touchscreen is responsive and mimics a smartphone;
- Consumers will have access to huge choice of digital content;
- Ability to make payments through digital wallets.
Gimme a break. These aren't safety features; they're technological advancements that make our life more convenient but not necessarily more safe. Remember, distracted driving occurs when our brains are focused on multiple tasks.
Distracted driving is 100% preventable. Here are some things you can to do to avoid distracted driving and keep you and others safe.
1. Use your phone for emergencies only. Safely pull off the road and call family or emergency responders for help. Think about the days when we got 30 free minutes a month and then each minute after was $.25. We didn't have unlimited calls and data. Moreover, we survived just fine. We didn’t drive around all day on the phone. We used the phone only when we really needed it.
2. Multi-task before you leave. Before you leave home or work for the day, take a few moments to multi-task before you start driving. Call or text your kids to let them know when you'll be home or set up that appointment in your calendar before you leave the parking lot.
3. Don’t eat and drive. I can honestly say this is one of my pet peeves. I do a lot of traveling with my daughter’s club volleyball team. I've eaten dinner many times behind the wheel and it's not easy. I've tried driving with my knees or have had my wife reach over and grab the wheel. After some trips when I got home, I noticed ketchup all over the front of my shirt. I'm fortunate I've never been involved in an accident because of these ridiculous maneuvers. Today, I made it my rule that I won't eat and drive no matter how many grumbles I get from my family. Getting home 15 minutes earlier isn't worth the danger I put myself, my family, and others in when trying to eat and drive.
4. Get up earlier or go to work ugly. All too often on the morning commute, you see people applying makeup or shaving while cruising down the highway. This is so ridiculous and dangerous. When your eyes are looking in the mirror, how do you see the chain reaction of brake lights ahead? Setting your alarm for 10 minutes earlier can keep you and others safe on the road.
5. Choose a designated navigator. Choose a friend or family member to run your car’s infotainment center. Have them read your GPS and give you additional verbal cues, answer your phone, or send text messages.
6. Make a commitment to be a safer driver!
Source: West Bend