Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving Once and for All
Imagine driving on the highway, closing your eyes and traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph. Sounds dangerous, right? But that’s what it’s like when you glance down at your phone for five seconds to read or send a text. And the consequences can be fatal.
Most people know they shouldn’t text or email when they drive and yet, they do. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that during the daytime, 660,000 drivers use cell phones. Think about this — a study from Car and Driver measured reaction times of people who texted, compared with those who had been drinking, and found reaction time was significantly slower when texting — slower even than when the subject had been drinking.
That distraction from texting leads to accidents. According to the NHTSA, in 2015, 391,000 people were injured in accidents due to distracted driving. For perspective, that’s about the same number of people that live in New Orleans. Of those injured, nearly 3,500 died. NHTSA says that the number of injured and killed is probably higher, but it’s hard to track because drivers in accidents don’t always admit they were using their cell phones.
Teens are more likely to text while driving, but drivers of all ages can claim this risky habit. It’s also not just texting, but talking or emailing can lead to distracted driving. Checking your GPS, dropping your phone and glancing down to find it, changing stations on the radio, and turning around to quiet arguing children in the back seat are just some of the ways that take our attention off the road.
Why We Still Drive Distracted
Why do we still do it? Turns out, in addition to thinking our reactions are quick enough to avoid an accident or that we’re good enough drivers to multitask (not true: we are 23 percent more likely to have an accident while texting), there are compelling psychological reasons we’re tempted by distraction.
Cell phones affect our brains the same way as an addiction, says Dr. David Greenfield of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. Checking our devices stimulates pleasure cells in the brain, releasing dopamine. The anticipation of a text response and the additional anticipation that the message will be positive are similar to playing the slot machine, he says, and makes us want to keep interacting with the phone.
Perhaps by understanding that cell phone habits may be influenced by biology, not just by habit, we can outsmart ourselves and finally stop driving while distracted.
How Do You Stop Driving While Distracted?
The National Safety Council suggests these steps:
- Turn off your cell phone. Don’t just make it silent or use it for hands-free driving, but eliminate the temptation to check it by powering it down.
- Put the cell phone away. The glove compartment, or better yet, the trunk of your car is a good place where youwon’t be tempted to rummage around for it if you’re at a stop light.
- If you need to check for an important message or make an important call, pull over to a safe place, park yourcar and make the call.
- Set your car’s infotainment system before getting started.
- Enter your destination in your GPS before starting your drive.
- If you’re using an app that allows you to warn others about upcoming road conditions, don’t try to update information about the trip, such as police officer ahead or disabled vehicle stopped ahead. If you have a passenger, ask them to make any updates so you’re not distracted.
- For longer drives, schedule breaks to stop, park and rest.
- Do not call/text friends or family if you know they are driving.
Distracted driving can cause devastation in seconds. A text is simply not worth risking a life. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Would you take the pledge to be an attentive driver?
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