When you get behind the wheel, your focus needs to be on arriving at your destination safely. Nothing else. Shifting or diverting your focus to other tasks while driving can put you and everyone with whom you share the road at risk. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent distracted driving.
When we say “distracted driving”, we mean driving while doing anything that can take your focus off of the road (this includes, but is NOT limited to cell phone usage). Distracted driving can be broken down into three categories:
- Visual – Performing a task that requires you to take your eyes off the road.
- Cognitive – A situation in which your mind is focusing on something other than driving.
- Manual – Performing a task that requires you to take one or both hands off of the wheel.
It’s always in your best interest to avoid anything that would fall into any of these categories that could potentially cause a distraction. Here are a few tips:
Store Loose Items
Keeping the inside of your vehicle tidy and free from loose objects and garbage can definitely help you to stay focused without worrying about your stuff rolling around on the dash or all over the floorboards. By having your loose items secured or tucked away you’ll be less inclined to try to “tidy up” or stop something from falling while the car is in motion.
Set It and Forget It
Before you take off, adjust your mirrors, lock your GPS to the right destination, set your radio or music device to your favorite tunes, and set anything else that might require your attention for the drive. The more you check off the list before you leave, the less you’ll need to worry about when driving.
Don’t Drive If Your Mind Is Somewhere Else
Sometimes the worst distractions don’t involve an object, or a fellow passenger. If you’ve just had a bad argument, received devastating news, or anything else that may take your mental focus off of the road, it’s time to wait until you’ve composed yourself to get behind the wheel. Driving angrily or hysterically can put you and other drivers at an increased risk.
Don’t Do “The Reach Back”
As any parent knows, kids can get awfully restless if they’re strapped into the backseat or a carseat for too long. If you’re driving and your child in the back is in need of assistance, don’t try the classic parent move of one-handing the wheel and reaching back to tend to the problem. Pull over when it is safe to do so (preferably in a parking lot as opposed to the shoulder of the road) and give your full attention to the issue while the car is stopped.
Put Down the Burger and Fries
While grabbing a greasy paper bag meal from a drive-thru window can certainly be convenient (and let’s face it, delicious), managing to have lunch while on the go can definitely take your focus away from driving. If it’s time to eat, you can spare a few minutes to dine in, or eat in the parking lot before heading back out on the road.
Handle Your Grooming Ahead of Time
Make sure you’re looking good before you leave the house. If you’re one to shave, apply makeup, brush your teeth, comb your hair, or prep for the day in any other way during your morning commute, it’s time to wake up a little earlier and take care of all of that stuff in the comfort and privacy of your own bathroom.
If it’s way too early (or way too late) to be driving safely, you do not need to be on the road. Driving while drowsy is incredibly risky for you, and everyone else on the road. If you’re traveling a long distance with someone, make sure you trade off and give each other time to rest. And if you’re all alone, you’ll want to factor in plenty of time for breaks so you don’t get too exhausted.
Put Your Cell Phone Away
You didn’t REALLY think we were going to leave this out, did you? Driving while using a cell phone (calling, texting, surfing, scrolling, tweeting, etc.) continues to be one of the leading causes of distracted driving and one of the most dangerous. We’re not going to dive into the legality of using a cell phone or hands-free device while driving as state and local laws are basically all over the place on the issue. But we will say that regardless of the law, it’s in your best interest to put the phone on silent and tuck it away and out of reach until you arrive at your destination.