Many confident drivers believe they can multitask while behind the wheel, even if it’s just in small ways. Time and again, the data has shown this simply isn’t true. Anything that takes your attention away from driving makes you more likely to be involved in a crash. This is true whether you’re talking on the phone with a hands-free device or trying to send a text while sitting in traffic.
For Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Safety Council (NSC) is urging people to take the “Just Drive” pledge and say goodbye to distractions such as:
- phone conversations,
- use of voice-to-text features,
- checking or posting to social media,
- checking or sending emails,
- taking photos or videos,
- interacting with a GPS device,
or anything else that takes your attention off the road while driving
The pledge also asks us to avoid calling or texting others when we know they’re driving. While phone use has, unfortunately, become the norm for drivers over the past 2 decades, if enough individuals stand up to point out the problem, we can decrease the number of distracted driving accidents.
What Counts As Driver Distraction?
Cell phones are an easy scapegoat for people with complaints about drivers not watching the road, but distraction doesn’t have to involve tech. A driver is more likely to make a mistake if they are:
- Manually distracted, with their hands away from the wheel
- Visually distracted, or looking somewhere other than the road in front of them
- Cognitively distracted by thoughts that do not have to do with driving
Therefore, the problem goes far beyond texting and talking while behind the wheel. Things like eating a snack or trying to make a grocery list in your head while driving can also cause accidents.
How to Beat Driver Distraction
Realistically, almost everyone who has driven a vehicle has at some point let themself get distracted while behind the wheel. We all live busy, demanding lives, and our duties often encroach on things like family time, sleep, and, yes, driving. The best way to avoid falling prey to distractions is not by swearing them off—it’s assuming they will happen and making a plan to deal with them.
Use Technological or Physical Barriers
Cell phones and social media apps incentivize users to constantly check them for updates. Our brains weren’t built to handle this level of activity and distraction, and even the most well-intentioned among us can get caught in a habit of picking up our phone whenever we have a spare minute or scrolling the day away. To keep yourself from grabbing your phone when you should be focusing on the road, try setting up Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving or Android’s driving mode to block incoming notifications.
If the temptation is still too strong, try putting your phone somewhere you won’t be able to get to it, like in the trunk or in the custody of one of your passengers.
The good news is, the habit of always having your phone in your hand can be broken. The more you work to control your phone use, the easier you will find it to resist each little ding and notification bubble.
Leave Yourself Enough Time
When planning our days, we tend to be optimistic: Surely we can run an errand during our lunch break and eat a quick sandwich in the break room after! The slightest interruption to our schedule can result in tasks being pushed back or, sometimes, combined with driving.
Being behind the wheel is not like being at your desk—it’s not a time to jot down your to-dos or eat lunch. It’s a time where you should be fully focused on controlling your vehicle safely. The best way to remove the urge to “catch up” on other tasks while driving is by finishing them before you’re behind the wheel. That may mean saying “no” to that catch-up coffee or dropping out of book club—but most of us spend at least some of our time on things we don’t need in our lives. Being overbooked isn’t just bad for our driving; it’s bad for our overall wellness.
Do a Pre-Drive Review
Taking a minute or two to write down distracting thoughts before you start your car can help you keep them at bay while you’re driving. Using your notes app or a small notepad that fits in your glovebox, think about your upcoming tasks and errands and jot down the things you need to remember for them. This way, you’re less likely to spend your whole drive repeating to yourself that you have to pick up milk at the store.
It may sound silly to do this every time you get in the car, but especially if you’ve had a long day, taking the time to get your thoughts down on paper can reduce stress and help you clarify your next steps. Once you’ve created a reminder for yourself of the things you need to do or think about later, you can put them out of your mind until later comes.
Don’t Become a Victim of Distracted Driving
Between 2018 and 2019, the number of distracted driving deaths increased by 10% to over 3,400 individuals. The sad thing is, none of these tragic accidents were necessary—nor were the ones that only resulted in injury. It’s easy to say “it will never happen to me” when you’re confident in your driving skills, but if you don’t do your part to reduce risk, you’re putting yourself and those around you in danger.
Our team has seen the sad aftermath of multiple distracted driving accidents, and while we always fight to help the injured receive fair compensation from those who hurt them, we would much rather none of these families had to deal with such hardship at all. Please join us in pledging to Just Drive this month and into the future.
Call Grewal Law PLLC at (888) 211-5798 today if you’ve been hurt in a car accident. We offer free consultations.