If you find yourself answering yes to even one of these questions, you have been indulging in what is termed as ‘Distracted Driving’.
Distracted driving is a common occurrence, but we do not realize it, simply because the activities that cause distracted driving are mundane. They could be things as simple as talking or texting on your mobile, eating a snack, sipping on your morning latte, reading maps, or simply fiddling with the stereo to find your favorite song (but while driving). It is, basically, anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
You simply cannot drive safely unless your full attention is on it. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a distraction and increases your chances of incident.
To give you some context—Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for approximately 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field… but with your eyes closed. That is exactly why texting while driving is considered the most troublesome distraction.
Many of us feel that we drive on autopilot. However, the truth is that driving actually needs a lot of focus and undivided attention. Sadly, the distractions are many and it only takes one mistake and the smallest of disturbances to cause a life-altering accident.The worst part is that accidents due to distracted driving can have a ripple effect—because it puts not only the drivers and passengers, but also pedestrians and other passing vehicles at risk. The destruction can range from minor vehicle damage to devastating injuries or even fatality. Needless to say that it can also affect your insurance premiums and result in fines or jail time if caught.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- 400,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018.
- 8.5 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2019 had distracted driving as the reported factor.
- 1,000+ Americans are injured each day in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
If we know and understand the causes of distracted driving, we can take care to give our full attention on the road and avoid accidents. Let us look at some of the common distractions we partake in, while behind the wheel:
Multitasking while driving is one of the most common distractions. This includes simple actions like eating with one hand while trying to steer with the other; taking your eyes off the road to pick up something you dropped on the car floor; or even browsing the radio without paying attention to where you are heading. Simply put, if you are doing anything besides driving, it carries a risk.
Make a note of these common multitasking distractions so you can stop yourself from indulging in them the next you are out driving:
- Adjusting the radio,
- Monitoring loud or active kids,
- Eating or drinking,
- Talking or texting on cellphones,
- Driving under the influence,
- Reading a paper map,
- Applying makeup,
- Adjusting your tie or clothes looking into the mirror.
- Using Cellphones
Cellphones have become an attention-sucking distraction both on and off the road. But while on the road, they may turn dangerous. Many of us find ourselves lured to instantly check the screen when we hear a beep or to quickly type a reply to that email, even while we are on the driver’s seat. It is these very temptations that can become life-threatening when combined with driving.
Several states across the U.S. have started banning the use of cellphones while driving—not just because they are a big distraction but also because of the rising number of people using them while attempting to drive. As of May 2019, 48 states—including Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—have banned texting and driving. Many experts compare using a cellphone while driving to drinking and driving, because of the amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road.
- Driving while under the influence
The use of mind-altering substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, or even some heavy prescription medication may reduce focus and slow down reflexes. It is because of this reason that driving under the influence is also categorized as distraction to driving. In many states, drunk driving attracts large fines, suspension of the driver’s license, and possibly jail time. Car insurance companies tend to charge higher premiums to offenders who have been caught for drunk driving.
- Losing Focus
Driving can be fun. But it is also a big responsibility because the driver is accountable for their own safety as well as that of the other passengers and the people on the road. We must remember that a mishap could happen within a split second and only if we are driving with 100 percent focus, can we do something to avoid (or at least reduce) the possible damage. So, keep your focus on the task—and wheel—at hand.
Teenagers and new drivers are most excited to get behind the wheel and ride-away to freedom. While their enthusiasm is worth encouraging, the truth is that teen drivers are also the most inexperienced and often the first to reject rules.
Findings by the NHTSA suggests that one in three teens who text admits to doing it while driving as well. Their research also finds that dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen driver’s risk of accident by 23 times.
Talking or texting on the phone takes your teen’s focus off the task of driving. This distracted driving significantly reduces their ability to react to a roadway hazard or even bad weather like iced or wet roads; which could lead to dangerous accidents.
After spending years protecting children from all sorts of dangers, parents of teen drivers are often faced with a dilemma when handing the car keys over to their young ones.
While some parents sit home worried, the smarter families use technology to their advantage and watch-over their teen drivers to ensure they follow good driving habits. The latest GPS trackers like the Family1st devices are small, easy to install, and give you real-time information about your teen driver’s whereabouts and safety, straight to your smartphone.
Another way to ensure your teen drivers stay safe on the road is to familiarize them with your state’s GDL and driving laws. It also helps to talk to them about the consequences of drinking and driving. Above all, be a good role model. Remember that your child looks to you as a driver, so practice safe driving yourself too.
The Role of NHTSA
NHTSA is dedicated to ensuring the safety of our nation’s roads and our loved ones.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a flag bearer in the fight against distracted driving. By partnering with states and local police forces, the NHTSA helps enforce laws against distracted driving and Americans safe.
While the states determine laws affecting distracted driving, NHTSA, under the leadership of the Secretary of Transportation, provides federal investments in the locally driven campaigns that address the states’ specific needs. One of the highlights of this relationship is the Distracted Driving Awareness Month which is conducted every April and is driven by a law enforcement crackdown called U Drive. U Text. U Pay.
Each state has its own set of laws when it comes to distracted driving. Take a look at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association page to learn about the rules across different states. These rules are set by the state legislature and the governor, so it is important to check what the laws and penalties are in your state or any state where you plan to drive.
But we must remember, that simply reading the laws is not enough. We must also abide by them and practice safe driving, no matter where we are.
Get Involved and Make the Roads Safer
We all have a role to play in the fight to end distracted driving. Here’s how you can pitch-in:
- As Teens
Teens are the best messengers with their peers, so encourage them to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted. Several states have local chapters of Students Against Destructive Decisions—inspire your teen to become a part of these initiatives.
- As Parents
Parents must first lead by example, by ensuring that their driving is focused and safe—irrespective of whether their children are watching or not. If you have a new or teen driver in your family, talk to them about the responsibilities of safe driving and the hazards of distracted driving. You can also guide them to explore the various traffic and GDL laws of your state to better understand road safety.
- As Educators and Employers
Education institutes and offices can join this mission by simply spreading awareness about the issue. You can hold talks on the subject or show films that can help change the mindset of your students and employees and encourage them to follow all safe driving practices, for their good and the good of their loved ones.
- Make Your Voice Heard
If you feel strongly about this cause, be its voice in your community. Support local laws, speak out at community meetings, and highlight the dangers of distracted driving on social media and local gatherings. Remember, road safety is for everyone.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage
Modern technologies in GPS tracking devices are also equipped to read and record driver behaviors like excessive speeding and hitting the breaks too hard or too often. If someone in your family or peer group is at risk of distracted driving, it would be a good idea to monitor their driving pattern and help them understand the risks attached to it. Find easy to plug and use devices that will not hamper your car’s performance.
Do you find yourself worrying about a loved one’s unsafe driving behavior?
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At Family1st, we understand the importance of ensuring a loved one’s safety. Which is why, all our devices and services are targeted at only one thing—keeping you and your dear ones safe. When you choose a Family1st tracking device, you can keep track of your vehicle’s location and the drivers behavior from the safety and comfort of your home or office. Club that with the benefit of real-time alerts, 24×7 customer service, and a lifetime warranty—that is the unbeatable Family1st advantage.