By Madeline Klein on August 9, 2021 in Safe Driving
Okay, time for some real talk. Not the "we're the insurance company so lecture lecture lecture" kind of thing, but more the, "hey we're all drivers, so let's agree to keep the distractions on the road in check". Seriously though, it's an issue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019, 3,142 people were killed and 424,000 were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers.
Even if you think you're a relatively safe driver, chances are you do at least one of the following things, and hey, there's always room for improvement, right? So here are our 10 tips to limit driving distractions:
1. The elephant in the room –cell phones (part 1).
We love them. Our little handheld, magical boxes of connectivity and entertainment. But, on the road, they're a dangerous distraction and way too tempting to look at every time they light up or buzz. We've all heard 1000 stats on how dangerous texting while driving is, yet it's reported 69 percent of motorists still admitted to using their phone while driving in 2019. Some justify their usage by saying they only text at red lights or stop signs, but it's still a distraction, can cause delays, and heightens the temptation to look at or give a response while moving.
Try to finish text conversations and phone calls before hitting the road. Once you shift your car into drive, put the phone on airplane mode, tuck it away, and party like it's nineteen-ninety—whenever before cell phones made it big.
2. Cell phones (part 2)
Texting can't take all of the heat for distractions related to cell phones. If you Google "snapchatting while driving," the first page alone will give you more than one tragic story resulting in death or serious injury.
(So here comes some of that real talk we mentioned earlier). A snap of you lip-syncing is no more entertaining while you're driving versus not. And every driver has seen enough traffic and highway views that they don't need your personal documentation of it. Oh, a pretty sunset on your drive home? Promise you, there are already going to be at least 10 snaps of it in your friends' stories. Resist the (definitely-not-worth-it) temptation on the road: No snaps, no Instagram stories, no Facebook live, nada.
3. Set your gizmos and gadgets before you start driving.
Before your car starts moving, check:
- Music: Have your favorite stations preset or get your preferred playlist, podcast, or audiobook going.
- GPS: If you need it, have the address entered and the specific route chosen.
- Car conditions: Have your seat, seatbelt, mirrors, air conditioning/heat, and volume all adjusted to your liking.
4. Make sure everything is secured.
Ever get 30 seconds into your drive and have your purse, briefcase, gym bag, groceries, or some other sort of object containing other objects fall and spill all over the place? It's super annoying and very tempting to clean up during your drive. Even a random rattle or flapping noise can be extremely bothersome. Prevent the distraction by looking for loose items and taking an extra minute to secure everything.
5. No personal grooming or primping.
This seems to be a pretty common one on the way to work. Find the extra time and finish your hair, makeup, nails, and whatever else at home or the gym. Just leave it off the road.
6. Pull over to tend to kids if you need.
Kids in cars can be tough. They're not always old enough to realize the shoe they just kicked off for the tenth time in two hours can wait until after you're done operating a two-ton piece of machinery. If you can't verbally coax them out of their screams, pull over to a safe spot and then give them your full attention.
7. Be strategic with snacks.
Your best bet is to not eat or drink in the car at all, but as we said in our surviving traffic post, hangriness is real and can be as distracting as eating. So, if you need a snack on the road, open it before you start driving and have one that can be easily held or contained in a nearby cup holder.
8. Get your passengers on board the distraction-free train.
Passengers can be wonderful secretaries if you need to change the music, send a text, and most of all of the other things we just told you not to do. Use them. But also make sure they don't become a distraction themselves. As much as we all love breakout dance sessions and cool sights, let's all agree if you're in the car, you've got to keep the shimming and "look!"s to a reasonable level.
9. Save the emotional stuff for later.
Any emotion can become a distraction if it leans on the extreme side of the spectrum. They can cause you to fixate on whatever caused the emotion rather than focus on the road. Have you ever arrived at a location and couldn’t remember any details of the drive because you were too busy worrying about interview questions or reliving the awkward encounter you had with your crush? Ever make an aggressive lane change without fully looking because you were arguing politics with your passenger?
Emotions get to us and the best thing to do is save the tough conversations for after the ride, or if you can't avoid the emotion, acknowledge it and try to calmly breathe through whatever you're feeling. You can also check out DMV.org's tips on handling positive and negative emotions on the road.
10. Have your on-the-go stuff ready.
Try to think through the entire drive before you leave the house. If you know you're going to drive through a toll, make sure you have cash pulled out and nearby. You're going out to run errands and know you need to drop your library books in the collection bin and run by the pharmacy drive-thru? Have the books and purse secured in your passenger seat. Otherwise, the closer you get to your destinations, the more you'll worry about finding everything and getting it out in a timely manner.