Distracted driving or inattentive driving has been on the rise in recent years. It has led to a rise in accidents, property damage and death. In 2020 distracted driving killed 3,142 people. While hand held cell phone usage has actually decreased, reported manipulation of a handheld electronic device has increased by 1300% since 2005. It seems that drivers have gotten the message that holding a phone while driving is bad, but not really gotten the corresponding message that the underlying distraction is a problem.
There are three types of distracted driving:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
Commuting or driving the same roads all the time can lend itself to a complacent attitude. This attitude leads to thinking that our full attention is not needed. However, at 55 miles per hour, sending or reading a text is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that today’s vehicles are filled with electronics. Some of us can remember when changing the radio station could be done by touch and didn’t require looking away from the road. While this was still a distraction, compare it with today’s instrument panel interface that is mostly touchscreen. These screens require us to look away to do anything from adjust the temperature to get an address on the navigation.
We can do something about this. We can commit to keeping our hands on the wheel and our minds and eyes on the road.
- Don’t multitask while driving. If you need to change music, eat, make a call or send a text, do it before or after your trip.
- Use apps to avoid using the cell phone. There are also apps that will automatically reply to texts you may receive, they let people know that you are driving and not to expect a response until you can do so safely.
- Speak up if you are in a car with a distracted driver. You don’t have to be that person, you can simply offer to adjust the navigation for them or send a text for them or suggest that the text can wait until you arrive at your destination.
- Actively reduce distractions for the driver. Be the navigator or DJ so the driver is free to focus on driving.
- Talk to your teen driver about distracted driving and the various ways that it can cause issues.
- Give them tools in advance so they are prepared for the peer pressure that may come.
- Be a good example. Ask your passenger or your teen to be the designated navigator and let them know all that the job entails.
Do you have more suggestions about what we can all do to change the culture around distracted driving? Let us know in the comments.