In 2009 as mobile phone use and texting were ramping up, the U.S. Department of Transportation aggressively campaigned to put an end to distracted driving. Since then, the month of April has been designated National Distracted Driving Awareness Month to develop strategies, encourage enforcement, and enact regulations to cease distracted driving across the country.
When looking at the statistics, the dangers are clear. A 2020 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that distracted driving was responsible for more than 3,100 fatalities and over 324,000 injuries in motor vehicle crashes. Of the total fatalities, 19% were individuals who were not vehicle occupants but mainly walking or riding a bicycle.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified three types of distractions that can occur while operating a motor vehicle. These include: visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off driving.
To avoid being part of these devastating statistics and to maintain the utmost safety and security for yourself and others, you can follow a few simple steps to stay focused and protected while driving.
- Recognize that even a few seconds can be fatal.
Taking your eyes off the road briefly while operating a vehicle might seem trivial. The fact is, when driving at 55 mph, taking your attention away from the road for just five seconds to send a single text or change a song on your playlist will result in your vehicle traveling the full length of a football field. A lot can happen in that short window of time, so it’s essential to be cognizant and avoid all distractions.
- Put your mobile device away!
An alarming statistic from the report shows that 12% of all car crashes from distracted driving were the result of cellphone use by the driver. Although most drivers understand the seriousness of texting while driving, a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA FTS) found that 26% of drivers admitted that they had either sent an email or text while driving in the previous month. Keeping your cellphone off or in the locked position can save lives – it’s as simple as that.
- Set your GPS and playlist before you leave.
In a separate study, AAA FTS found that programming your vehicle’s navigation system takes an average of 40 seconds to complete. This is striking considering that previous research by AAA FTS found that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of a crash.
A great way to avoid distractions while driving is to set your navigation on your phone or vehicle and familiarize yourself with your route before you drive. Also, adjust your volume on the GPS and choose your preferred playlist so that you don’t have to make changes while in motion. You can also have a passenger handle the DJ and navigation responsibilities. These easy to implement steps are effective for maintaining safety and attention on the road.
- Avoid multitasking while in motion.
Multitasking can mean many things while driving—from eating and drinking to fixing seatbelts for children to carrying conversations with others in the car and more. Attending to these and other similar matters creates an additional layer of disruption to standard driving procedures. To preserve the safety of your vehicle, its passengers, and others on the road, take care of disruptive matters before you get underway, or pull off to the side of the road. Safely secure your children’s seatbelts and car seats, eat in a restaurant or while parked, and table explosive conversations until the car has stopped.
- Be an advocate for others by discussing safe driving practices.
A commonly overlooked factor in safe driving is championing the right mindset for others. Most people don’t recognize that 8% of fatal accidents are due to distracted driving, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and many think a vehicle crash won’t happen to them…until it does. A simple reminder to avoid texting or using the phone while driving can save lives, and you’re the first line of defense in doing so.
Parents can be safety champions for their teenage and younger drivers when they instill safe driving practices in the learning phase, but it goes much further than that. It’s important to remind family and friends that whoever is in the driver’s seat needs to focus on the road first. That way, everyone arrives at their destination safely.
- Verify you have proper coverage for your vehicle.
Using the steps above will allow you to safely navigate your vehicle while focusing on the road. It also is important to have the right insurance protection in place for your automobile. Whether for your personal vehicle or vehicles in your company’s fleet, the right auto coverage is paramount. Connect with an IOA advisor today to learn more and to discuss how you can get the best auto coverage for your personal or business needs.