As advancing technology lets us do more with our time in our vehicle, driver distraction is a growing concern. The following is a list of common-sense tips to help manage distractions while you are on the road. First, let’s talk more about the issue of distraction.
What is distracted driving?
In simple terms, distracted driving is multi-tasking behind the wheel. On the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s distracted driving website, they define distracted driving as any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three types of distraction:
- Visual — taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual — taking your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive — taking your mind off what you are doing.
You know that heart pounding moment when you swerve to stay on the road or avoid a collision? Safety experts say that multi-tasking while driving causes slower reaction times and increases your chances of getting into a collision. Multi-tasking in a vehicle impairs essential cognitive processes, so less of the brain is available to focus on the primary task of driving.
Hands-free talking can help
Drivers talking or texting on a cell phone is currently an important issue for many local lawmakers because it involves all three kinds of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive). This makes cell phone conversations and use among the most distracting behaviors people engage in behind the wheel. Many states have enacted laws requiring headsets or hands-free technology.
Using a hands-free device gives you a boost in safety, but it does not completely eliminate all distractions associated with talking on a cell phone while driving. National Safety Council studies reveal that hands-free drivers are still less likely to notice exits, red lights, stop signs, and other cues relevant to driving. So, you’ll be able to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, but there’s still a level of cognitive distraction involved.
Tips to help reduce distraction
Although it may not be possible to avoid every distraction completely, these strategies can help you minimize sources of distraction.
Before you roll
- Set essential controls. Before you back out of your parking spot, queue up the playlist you want to hear, set climate controls to a comfortable level, and program any destinations into your GPS.
- Review your route. When you are headed for an unfamiliar destination, review your directions and study your route ahead of time. Use Google Map’s Street View to get a 3D look at your destination, so you will have a mental picture to help you find your address.
- Manage your time. Rushing tends to promote distraction, road rage, and taking unnecessary risks. Whenever possible, leave a few minutes early so you can arrive at your destination stress-free.
- Prep at home. Get ready for work before getting in your car. Putting on deodorant, makeup, and shaving are much easier and safer when done in your own bathroom.
On the road
- Drive thru, pull over. When you grab food on the go, take ten minutes to park and eat. You can use the time to check your messages, return some calls, or read the paper.
- GPS adjustments. If you get lost, turned around, or need to make major changes to your route, find a safe place to pull off the road.
- The buddy system. An adult passenger riding next to you can share your awareness of the driving situation, and actually reduce the risk of collision, according to the National Safety Council. Make it a habit to stick with light conversation topics — a heated discussion can actually pull your attention away from the road.
- Save it for later. Suspend phone conversations in heavy traffic and bad weather, even if you’re using hands-free talking. You need your full attention on the road to anticipate and react to hazardous road conditions.
- Spacing out. If you feel like your mind is wandering to some problem at work or at home, pull off the road and write it down or make a phone call. On long drives, take breaks to rest your eyes.
- Rest if You need it. Drowsy driving can be equally dangerous. If you find yourself getting tired, pull over at a safe location such as an exit or a rest area and get out and get some fresh air. Roll down your windows, turn up the air conditioning, and drink caffeinated beverages.
Greene, Jo. “Tips to Reduce Distracted Driving.” Crutchfield, 2 June 2011, www.crutchfield.com/S-dgwNK7AxfiB/learn/reduce-distracted-driving.html.