Driving a vehicle becomes almost second nature the longer we do it. This leads to complacent behaviour, and worse, distracted driving.
We start doing other things when we should be giving our full, undivided attention to the road. These tips will help remind you what and what not to do, and help end distracted driving.
1. Put Away Your Cell Phone
Amidst the onslaught of digital technology, there should be one place that remains a phone-free zone: the driver’s seat of your car. Smartphones are without question a big and dangerous distraction for drivers.
Texting and driving has become one of the leading causes of car accidents, particularly in the young driver demographic. Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Even simply reaching for a device means you are taking on 1.4 times more risk. This is a distraction that is completely avoidable.
Whether you’re taking a call, texting your friends, fiddling with a GPS application, or doing any other phone-related activity, do it before you start driving. Even a hands-free device should only be used if absolutely necessary. If it’s an emergency, pull over safely before turning your attention to the screen. It will be safer in the long run to have your phone safely tucked away, out of sight and out of mind.
It’s the Law: Ontario has laws against using mobile devices, including some hands-free systems, under the distracted driving laws.
2. Don’t Drive Drowsy
It’s a given that it is never okay to drink and drive, but many people don’t consider driving with little to no sleep to be just as dangerous.
When the kids have kept you up all night, or you couldn’t stop watching the latest Netflix hit, you’re going to be tired the next day. When you’re tired, your reaction time is slower. Not only that, but you become less aware of your surroundings.
Put all that together with driving a car, and there is an increased risk that you’ll have an accident. It isn’t just the end of the day yawns or the pre-coffee fog. It’s actual mind-clouding tiredness that you actively think about, which takes your thoughts away from safe driving.
While it is difficult to provide an exact number of crashes caused by tired drivers, according to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, fatigue is a factor in up to 21 per cent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year.
If you feel yourself becoming increasingly drowsy, pull over right away. Get in touch with a boss or a coworker to let them know the situation, and either call for someone to come get your or grab a few Zzz’s on the side of the road. These delays are safer than continuing to drive and risking something much worse.
Remember: While these safe driving tips will help you be a more focused driver, you can’t always control problems from your car itself. That’s why we recommend regular tune ups to all car owners.
Speeding is something almost all drivers are guilty of and what time or another. However, speeding can actually stem from a driver who is driven to distraction. You may be thinking about where and how soon you need to get to your destination, causing you to speed and pay less attention to the road.
Speed is a factor in 30 per cent of all fatal crashes, and a factor in 12 per cent of all crashes, according to the Canadian Safety Council. Speed is not only a huge contributing factor to accidents, it makes injuries and car damage more severe.
Over 86 per cent of drivers polled admitted to driving aggressively – in other words, speeding. This makes it one of the biggest problems when it comes to being a driver, a problem that is increased if the driver is distracted.
Give yourself the time you need to get to your destination. Most people speed because they’ve left for work late or just haven’t given themselves enough time to make that appointment. If you do end up leaving late, remember that it is more important to be safe than on time.
4. Avoid Multi-Tasking
There are many distractions that will pop up when you’re driving, and you can end distracted driving if you address them before they happen.
- Your GPS – If you know where you’re going but aren’t quite sure how to get there, chances are you’ll enlist the help of a GPS unit. Before even turning the car on, program your GPS with your destination and safely secure it. If you need to change destinations, pull over safely before using it.
- Adjustments – Particularly if you share a car with another driver, your mirrors, the steering wheel, and your seat are going to need adjustments frequently. Doing this while driving is dangerous, as it takes your attention away from the road. Sit for a few moments when you first get in the car, and take the time to carefully check all of the abovementioned things. If needed, make your adjustments. Then you’ll be able to get on the road without splitting your attention.
- Music – You’re constantly looking for the perfect driving tune, which means fiddling with the radio, or your phone if you’re car is Bluetooth capable. This is a big no when it comes to safe driving tips. If you have a passenger, take advantage of them by getting them to be the DJ or read the GPS. If you don’t have a passenger, try to pick a radio station and stick to it, or turn it off altogether. Silence is not always a bad thing.
5. Minimize the Activity Level
Driving by yourself can be peaceful and relaxing. Driving with others can be loud and chaotic.
If you do have company in the car, make sure your company is properly prepared to help you end distracted driving.
- Kids – Driving with children can be stressful for both you and them. One way to reduce your worry is to make checklist of what you need to do to make sure they are safe and secure in the backseat. You don’t want to be watching for pedestrians while reaching your hand back trying to feel if you buckled their seatbelts.
- Pets – Animals can be a real, dangerous distraction for drivers, especially since so many people let them roam wherever they want in the vehicle. We have some safe driving tips when it comes to traveling with animals. Tip number one? They should be buckled in too!
- Passengers – It’s fun to have your friends and family in the car with you. You can have spirited singalongs, tell jokes, and enjoy each other’s company. But there are some things as the driver that you should avoid. Don’t participate in any car games that would require you to take your eyes off of the road. Discourage any potentially serious or stressful conversations from taking place while you’re behind the wheel that could distract you. Finally, if you’re passengers are being too loud or moving excessively, don’t be afraid to ask them to stop. They want to arrive just as safely as you do.
Keep In Mind
While these tips will help end distracted driving for you, we can’t guarantee everyone else will follow them, or that something else won’t happen to cause an accident.