In today’s on-the-go world, it would be difficult to find a driver anywhere that hasn’t been guilty of distracted driving. Mom is trying to race her children from school to karate while the kids are changing into karate gear in the back seat. A Father hears his text alert and checks to see that it’s his 14 year old son checking in safely at home. A group of teens are navigating unfamiliar territory on their way to their first spring break.
While the advent of cell phones and texting brought distracted driving into the spotlight, texting while driving isn’t the only source of distractions. There are three main kinds of distractions. Take the time to learn them and discuss them with your friends and family.
Visual distraction occurs when a driver looks at anything other than the road ahead. Backseat passengers, especially small children, can take your focus away from the road. Searching for an item in a glove compartment, purse, floorboard or bag contributes to visual distractions. Billboards, GPS, and portable DVDs/digital entertainment are other sources causing distracted driving.
This occurs when the driver is taking one or both of their hands of the steering wheel for any reason. It may be to answer a call or check email, put on lipstick, eat a meal while driving with your knee, or adjust the vehicle’s thermostat.
Texting while driving has the biggest potential for distraction while driving. It is mainly due to the manual distraction, but texting also includes visual and cognitive distraction elements.
‘Hands-free’ doesn’t mean risk-free. According to a recent AAA study, certain activities, such as talking on a hands-free cell phone or interacting with a speech-to-text email system, increase the risk of cognitive-based distractions by reducing the available mental resources that can be dedicated. Mentally distracted drivers miss visual cues, have slower reaction times, and even exhibit a sort of tunnel vision.
5 tips to avoid common driving distractions
These days, focusing on the road ahead is easier said than done. Here are some things you can do to avoid this common problem.
· Turn off your cell phone — even if you’re expecting an important business call.
· If you need to be reachable at all times, get a hands-free device to use only in case of emergency. Why only in emergencies? Because studies have shown that hands-free devices prove just as distracting as normal cell phone use while driving.
· When driving with children or pets, make sure the kids are strapped into their seats, portable DVDs/devices are in reach, and pets are in carriers. If they need your attention during the drive, pull over before handling the situation.
· Eat before or after you drive.
· Program your GPS before you leave the driveway.
Parents should also be aware of their part in the problem. A new study of teen behaviors says 55 percent report texting their parents while behind the wheel in order to update them. Nearly 1 in 5 teens told the researchers that their parents expect a text response within a minute, and 25 percent said the folks wanted to hear back within five minutes. Determine and alternate communication strategy before your teen goes out on the road.
It can be tempting to answer that email or reprogram the GPS. But if you’re able to resist the temptation and focus on the road ahead, you’ll be able to react to the unexpected and possibly avoid an accident.