We know that driving requires our full attention, but it’s easy to get distracted. Distracted driving is defined as anything that affects our focus as we operate a motor vehicle. A distraction can cause us to take our eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel or mind off our driving. In April, we observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Now’s the ideal time to discover safe driving tips that protect everyone on the road.
Reduce Distracted Driving Before You Leave
Safe driving starts with several precautions before you slide behind the wheel.
- Get enough rest. Like drunk driving, drowsy driving can reduce reaction time, slow reflexes and impair judgment. Drive only when you’re rested and most likely to remain alert.
- Leave extra time. You’re more likely to feel stressed and take risks if you feel pressure to get to your destination on time. Give yourself an adequate time margin so you can arrive alive even if you face unexpected delays.
- Plan your route. Fussing with your GPS while you drive reduces your attentiveness to the road. Program your GPS, check traffic conditions, and review the route and directions on the map before your trip. You may also look at a street view picture to get a better visual of your destination.
- Prepare for your day. Grooming, reading and other multitasking behind the wheel is unwise. Apply makeup or shave, read email, eat breakfast, and drink your coffee before you leave home.
- Secure children, pets and gear. Any time you remove your hands from the wheel, you could lose control of your car. That’s why you want to buckle kids into a car seat or seat belt and use a harness or crate for your furry friends. Reduce clutter, too, since unsecured objects can easily roll, fall or shift and draw your attention off the road.
- Set the controls. Prepare your vehicle so you’re comfortable and set for the journey. Adjust the seats, mirrors, climate controls, and playlist before you put the vehicle in gear.
- Turn off your phone. Even hands-free technology can steal your full attention and distract you from seeing signs or noticing hazards. No phone call, text message, social media post, or notification is worth an accident.
Reduce Distracted Driving on the Road
Once you begin your drive, follow these safe driving tips and keep your focus on the road where it belongs.
- Scan the road. Sure, a colourful billboard or interesting landmark can capture your attention, but your focus should remain on the road. Scan your mirrors every few seconds, and look ahead as you notice road signs, pedestrians, cyclists, and potential hazards or obstructions.
- Give yourself permission to pull over. Even if you’re an experienced driver, it only takes a second of distraction to potentially cause an accident. Find a parking lot or other safe spot and pull over if you absolutely need to take a phone call, retrieve a dropped item, eat, or check your GPS. Pull over if the weather gets bad, too.
- Take breaks. To boost your focus, manage drowsiness and target your attention, schedule frequent breaks into your schedule, especially if you’re on a long road trip. Take a walk, do some stretching and play with your pets or kids.
- Turn down the radio. Music, talk shows and podcasts provide entertainment but can also distract your mind. Select entertainment and a volume level that supports safe driving.
- Choose light chatter. Now’s not the time to start a debate or heated conversation that can distract your mind or elevate your emotions. Instead, engage in light conversation and pay attention to the road.
Reduce Distracted Driving as You Ride
Even if you’re not behind the wheel, you can take action to reduce distracted driving.
- Manage the GPS. Take over navigation duties so your driver can focus on the wheel.
- Scan the road. While you don’t want to become a passenger seat driver, notice potential distractions, hazards or obstacles, and alert the driver of danger.
- Reduce distractions. Settle energetic kids and pets, turn down the music and choose light conversation topics as you help the driver stay focused.
- Insist on safe driving. Only ride with drivers who are committed to following the rules of the road. Offer to take over driving duties or suggest a break if the driver becomes distracted.
Distracted driving is hazardous for drivers, passengers and others on the road. Implement safe driving tips this month to protect everyone as you travel.