5 Tips to cut back on distracted driving

Each month of the calendar year has a national health observance, and April happens to have two! In our previous blog post, we featured 3 Tips to Enjoying Patio Season Safely, in honor of the Alcohol Awareness observance for the month of April. We’d like to turn our focus now to the other observance for the month; Distracted Driving.

In 2016, the AAA Foundation found that Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving in a given year. That’s a lot of time spent behind the wheel – and it stands to reason that each minute we spend on the road is a minute we have to remain sharp and focused.

A common misconception that people have is that multi-tasking while driving is possible; we do it every time we answer a phone call, eat fast food, or fiddle with the radio. Multiple studies show that such activities while driving are equivalent to driving drunk; NPR has a great article  about this topic on their website that’s worth the read.

According to the DMV, there are three types of distracted driving; visual, manual, and cognitive. Examples of each can be found on the DMV.org’s website . If any of these behaviors happen to you while you’re on the road, take a moment to assess new ways to prevent them. Here are a few tips to cut back on distracted driving to get you started.

Before you enter the vehicle

Take care of the little things before you step on the gas. Things like fiddling with the radio, dials, and dashboard lights can be taken care of before you leave the driveway. Always check your gauges to make sure your vehicle is road-ready. Not only will you have peace of mind, you’ll also cut back on the risk of having to pull over if something goes wrong.

Keep phone calls to emergency situations only

Taking calls or texting while driving can be both a visual and a manual distraction. Not only is fiddling with your phone for any reason dangerous while driving, it’s also illegal in some, if not most states. Take a moment to learn more about your state’s cell phone policy while driving from the National Conference of State Legislatures website . However, we know that emergencies don’t wait until we’re out of the vehicle. If you absolutely must take a call, consider pulling over to a safe location first. Avoid busy streets, or dark, isolated areas. If you find that it’s hard to separate yourself from your phone, consider putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode or Airplane Mode. This will keep calls, texts, and notifications from getting through to you.

GPS

It’s easy to get side-tracked when you don’t know where you’re going. When the destination is unfamiliar, we can spend a lot of time looking at directions and not enough time watching other vehicles.

Hands-off GPS is the best GPS, and an option for hands-off GPS is mounting your device to your dashboard or console. In a few states, mounting your GPS to your windshield is also an option. However, you should always check the laws in your individual state  for specific regulations regarding mounting devices in your vehicle.

The safest way to use GPS is to focus on the auditory-only function. Keep other noise in your car to a minimum and avoid looking at digital maps or directions. Before you get in the car, it’s also a good idea to review your route so you are more familiar with the milestones and exits you need to be aware of.

Managing passengers

We all have passengers that like the music too loud, or who try to show you things on their phone quick while you’re driving. Even if it seems excessive, set some ground rules for your vehicle. You know yourself best, and that means you know what distracts you.

As a parent, times spent in the car with little ones can also be a demanding activity. Long durations spent in the car seat are taxing for kids, and it’s easy for their attention and patience to wander.

Before your buckle up, make sure you have a few car-friendly activities that can keep your kids’ minds active and engaged. This resource from Teaching Mama  has a few simple and fun activities you can replicate. If DIY isn’t your thing, stocking up on a few books, CDs, and comfort items are always an option.

Enter the car with a clear mind

Taking a drive to clear your mind isn’t always such a good idea; getting behind the wheel when you’re upset, angry, or drowsy is just as dangerous as manual and visual distractions. Driving calm and collected is an important skill to master, especially if driving anxiety is something you experience. Here are a few great methods to reduce driving anxiety from the Calm Clinic .

Did you know that in addition to Distracted Driving, April’s other National Heath Observance for the month is Alcohol Awareness? You can learn more about cutting back on alcohol consumption and distracted driving on the Health Finder website __.

Author: Taylor Werdel

April 16, 2018