A few decades ago, drunk driving was the biggest hazard on the road. Back then, the patrons at the local bar thought nothing of getting behind the wheel, even when they felt more than a little tipsy. To make matters worse, local law enforcement often looked the other way, simply telling the impaired driver to be careful on the way home.
Things have certainly changed in our responses to drunk driving, and these days, the impaired driver is more likely to be greeted by a pair of handcuffs than a friendly officer. The efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have had a major impact, as has the availability of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
A New Threat for the New Century
While drunk driving deaths have been declining steadily over the past couple of decades, a new, and potentially even deadlier, threat has emerged to take its place. That threat is distracted driving, and distraction-related crashes have been rising fast, even as drunk driving accidents have been on the decline.
Unlike drunk driving, distracted driving does not require the presence of alcohol, and this dangerous problem can affect drivers of all ages and abilities. From the new driver hitting the road for the first time to the driver with decades of experience and hundreds of thousands of miles behind the wheel, no one is immune to the threat posed by distracted driving.
Even if you are not the one being driven to distraction, you could find yourself involved in a distracted driving crash. No matter what side of the equation you are on, it is important to understand the threat of distracted driving, and take some proactive steps to avoid it.
Never Text and Drive
Texting and driving just may be the worst distracted driving sin of all. No matter how adept you are at texting, sending even a short message means taking your eyes, and more importantly your brain, off the road.
You could travel the length of a football field while typing even a short message, and during that time, you might as well be driving blind. No text message is worth your life, so put your phone away until you are off the road.
Put Your Phone on Silent
The mere sound of a ringing cell phone can distract you from the task at hand, and the repeated sound can tempt you to reach for the device. If you want to avoid distracted driving, do yourself, and your passengers a favor.
Always silence your cell phone before you get behind the wheel. Placing your phone on silent will allow others to reach you in an emergency, without driving you to distraction.
Place Your Phone in the Glove Box
Your glove box can serve an important purpose even if you never put on a pair of gloves. If you are worried you may succumb to temptation while driving, take a minute to place your smartphone, and all other electronic devices, in the glove box.
It only takes a minute to retrieve your smartphone and other devices from the glove box when you reach your destination. There will be plenty of time to check your messages when you arrive, without putting your safety – and the safety of your fellow motorists – at risk.
Set Your Presets Before You Leave the Driveway
From your radio or music player to your GPS or navigational device, it is important to set your presets before you pull out of the driveway. Fiddling with the radio, searching for a song and entering your destination address can all prove distracting behind the wheel, but taking care of those things ahead of time will keep you safer.
Understand the Limitations of Hands-Free Technology
At first blush, using a hands-free headset may seem like the perfect solution to distracted driving, but even the best hands-free technology has its limitations. Using a hands-free headset may eliminate the need to reach for your smartphone on a busy highway, but the conversation itself can be very distracting.
It is important to pay close attention to your driving, even when using a hands-free device. If you find yourself in heavy traffic, bad weather or other challenging driving conditions, cut the call short and resume it once you are off the road.
Distracted driving is a real problem on the road, and the problem is expected to get worse before it gets better. Technology is getting better every year, and every new advance brings new apps, new games and new opportunities for distraction. If you want to protect yourself, your passengers and your fellow drivers, you need to avoid distracted driving at all costs – there will be plenty of time for email, phone calls and games once you have arrived safely at your destination.