Everybody knows distracted driving is dangerous, yet the majority of drivers engage in some form of it every day. As National Distracted Driving Awareness Month begins, campaigns are kicking off around the country, highlighting the same significant, but oversold, scary statistics and slogans.
With graphic details and dire warnings bombarding drivers from billboards to airwaves, have we become desensitized to the threats they present? The dangers of driving distracted are very real, but often overlooked or ignored when challenged by our desire to multitask or check Facebook.
Distracted Driving: Why Not?
Distracted driving is a personal and problematic issue for every driver. To cut through the cookie-cutter caution, the passionate team of Montway Auto Transport compiled our Top Five driving “don’ts,” supported by the most relevant and interesting facts and information.
1) Don’t Text Behind the Wheel
We’ve all heard it before–the most serious distracted driving issue is texting while driving. Two-thirds of drivers admit to being aware of the dangers of texting while driving. Yet the issue remains such an epidemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation kicked off Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a nationwide enforcement campaign.
State and local law enforcement have committed to aggressively ticket drivers who are texting or using their handheld devices behind the wheel from April 10-15. But texting makes the number one slot on our list for reasons beyond the enforcement crackdown.
When checking a text, both your eyes and mind are off the road. At 55mph, you’ll travel the distance of a football field blind, when you should be actively engaged in making driving decisions. Even new voice-to-text tools have been found to put you at more risk than traditional type-texting (Texas A&M Transportation Institute study).
2) Don’t Distract Yourself
Distracted Driving is defined as driving a vehicle while being engaged in another activity. This includes activities which many see as part of the driving experience. A few examples are listening to the radio, talking to another passenger, adjusting the temperature, and drinking coffee. Discover the surprising ways listening to music can affect your driving.
A distraction can be anything that takes your hands, eyes, or mind off the task of driving. Driving alone requires your full attention and dedicated effort visually, physically, and mentally. Taking your mind off the task of driving is just as dangerous as taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.
3) Don’t Buy the Lie of Multitasking
Many people drive distracted because they are trying to save or make the most of drive-time, catching up on calls, doing makeup, eating, and more. When you think you are doing two things at once, however, your brain is actually switching back and forth between tasks. It’s literally impossible to “do two things at once,” because your brain is incapable of managing more than one piece of information at a time.
In fact, when your brain attempts to rapidly and frequently switch focus, there is an measurable delay in reaction time, called the psychological refractory period. Drivers who attempt to multitask can have a lower reaction time than a person who has been drinking!
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4) Don’t Waste Your Time
The psychological refractory period caused by attempting to multitask actually makes you less productive, by 40% according to the American Psychological Association. The brief time it takes to shift mental focus expends valuable brain power and you’re also never fully focused on either task. Not only are you risking your life, you’re wasting your time. Switching between tasks frequently also disrupts your ability to remember, process, and store information.
5) Don’t Make Bad Decisions
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates distracted driving plays a part in nearly one-third of traffic collisions. Why do distractions cause so many accidents? You may not realize it, but driving takes a lot of brain power. Drivers make 200 decisions during every mile traveled.
According to a poll by the National Safety Council, over half of respondents felt that talking on the phone was safe using a hands-free device. Studies have shown, however, that even using a hands-free device doesn’t prevent distraction. Drivers talking on the phone are four times more likely to be in a traffic accident, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
You wouldn’t make an important life-affecting decision while holding an unrelated conversation. So why would you do that to yourself while trying to make 200 life-impacting decisions?
Do Leave Your Phone Alone
There is no way to prevent being distracted by the things you do while driving. You can, however, manage those distractions with simple DRIVE preparation:
D) Dedicate to Driving: Distracted driving is stressful. Give yourself permission to dedicate time on the road to driving only. You’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed. Remember that because of the psychological refractory period, anything you do while driving, from conversing to planning, will be more effective or memorable given its own time.
R) Ready for the Road: Preset navigation and music before getting on the road.
I) Involve Others: Designate passers as navigators and have them answer important calls and texts for you.
V) Volume Off: Silence your ringer and text notifications before getting in the car.
E) Eliminate Expectation: Add a message to your voicemail explaining that you won’t answer texts or calls while driving. If you must be “on call,” set a special ringtone for important callers. Pull over when you can safely do so to return calls.
Learn more about the history, regulations, and current awareness campaigns on the U.S. government’s official website dedicated to distracted driving prevention.
DRIVE right and be safe, fellow travelers!
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