Driving Distractions to Eliminate and Avoid on Your Daily Commute/How to Improve Driving Safety
Americans have become professional multi-taskers it seems. The more technologically advanced we become, the less efficient we are. There's never enough time to get it all done, and besides, it's boring to just focus on one thing at a time. I'm on the road a minimum of two hours a day for my commute to work, and I've witnessed plenty of folks who feel the need to multi-task while driving. I've even done a bit of that myself.
But driving while distracted can be deadly. More than 3,000 people were killed in the United States in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2010, the last year for which data is available, according to Distraction.gov, the government website on distracted driving. An additional 416,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the website.
Eighteen percent of injury crashes are reported as caused or affected by distraction, and 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes are reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
So the next time you feel like that drive just isn't interesting enough, think twice before engaging in a distracting activity. It might save your life. Here is a list of distracting activities to avoid while on the road.
• Cell phones - Talking on the cellphone is the go-to driving distraction these days. We must be connected every minute, it seems, and why waste time just driving when you could be finding out the latest gossip or catching up with friends and family? Well, because using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, according to Distraction.gov. Drivers using handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Use a hands-free device if you must talk, but be aware that while this contributes to safer driving by allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel, having a conversation using a hands-free devices still reduces brain activity and creates a distraction.
• Texting - Text messaging ups the risk of crashing a vehicle by 23 times, according to Distraction.gov. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of a football field if traveling at 55 miles per hour. Bottom line: Texting isn't necessary. If it's imperative that you send a message to someone, pull over to a safe spot to text.
• Applying makeup and fixing hair - Let's not pretend this doesn't happen. Those precious morning preparation minutes pass by much too quickly, and some things get left undone. My college Spanish professor loved to talk about women's penchant for putting on makeup in the car. Once, he was behind a woman who was applying lipstick at a red light. The light turned green, and still she sat, applying her lipstick. Finally, the professor got irritated enough to honk his horn. The woman calmly glanced at him through her rear view mirror, held up a finger, signaling "One minute," and continued applying her lipstick until she got it just right. Then, and only then, did she drive away. While it's not a good idea to hold up traffic, at least wait until stopped at a traffic light before putting on makeup. But it's best to do that at home, or once safely parked at the office. It may be that you need to get up earlier in order to get your makeup and hair done. But if you're already getting up with the roosters, consider finding a lower maintenance routine that only takes a few minutes to complete but still gives you a professional look. Try a sleek pony tail or pretty headband on mornings when the full haircare routine is too time-consuming.
Women aren't the only drive time groomers. I've heard tales of men shaving while commuting. Brave souls indeed. Needless to say, don't do it. Having a five o'clock shadow is better than being six feet under.
• Reading. Never do it under any circumstances. I've seen people reading reports, magazines, newspapers. Unless you're reading a road sign, you shouldn't be reading while driving. If you haven't studied up for school or work by the time you're on your way to the big test or presentation, it's too late. Cut your losses and do better next time.
• Fishing around in the car or in your purse - I've done it plenty of times - for my cellphone, lipstick, tissues, a CD. It's a distraction and, even when you keep your eyes on the road, with one hand off the wheel feeling around for whatever object you're searching for, if you need to react fast, like to avoid hitting something, you won't be able to. Keep whatever you may need on the seat next to you, or close at hand. If you've got a cold, put a box of tissues in the seat next to you, for example, or in the storage compartment on the driver's side door for easy access.
• Speeding -Speeding can be a distraction if the primary thought is about getting somewhere quickly versus paying attention to other drivers and your surroundings. At the very least, this could cost you a few hundred bucks. At most, it could cost you your life. If you're chronically late and always in a rush to get wherever you're going, set clocks five, ten or fifteen minutes ahead of the actual time, get up earlier, do whatever you have to do. Be late if necessary.
• Driving carelessly - I recently pulled into a neighborhood that I visit all the time - in fact, I used to live there. I made a wider turn than necessary, for no particular reason, just because I was relaxed and in a residential area and not really on guard. A little boy was riding a bicycle in the middle of the road. Thank goodness, I was driving slow and was able to quickly correct my car. It's easy to let down our guard, especially in areas where we're off main roadways and not driving in heavy traffic. But that's when accidents happen. Stay alert and vigilant and drive safely, wherever you are.
For more information on distracted driving, visit the following link:
- Distracted Driving | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration | Texting and Driving
Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating. Click here to learn the facts about distracted driving.