After driving for some time, you get used to how it’s done and it becomes easy. However, no matter how long you’ve driven, you need to have maximum attention to drive safely. It’s scary to think how prevalent distracted driving is today, especially when you consider that 80% of crashes and 65% of near-accidents occur due to distracted driving.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Did you know that in the United States alone, there are over 222 million registered drivers? That’s a lot of people on the road! The more people that are out driving, the higher the chance there is for car accidents. However, the incidence of car accidents have actually gone down 95% since cars were first invented. This is thanks to excellent traffic laws, testing before a person gets a license, people buckling up and more. However, car accidents only went down in number up until 2014. The National Safety Council reported that by 2016, accidents rose 14% and over 40,000 people (40,327 to be exact) in the U.S. died that year in motor vehicle accidents.
There are many causes of car accidents that include speeding, reckless driving, drunk driving, weather conditions, tailgating, road rage and more. However, despite the many reasons for accidents, distracted driving is the #1 cause of car accidents. In the past this didn’t use to be the main cause of accidents, but with the prevalence of texting and multitasking while driving, distracted driving has taken the lead. Distracted driving, by definition, is “the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaging in another activity.” People do this so much that the Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 9 people die in the U.S. every day due to distracted driving.
Texting and Driving
What is the major culprit of driving distractedly? The answer is technology. With the invention of smartphones and other smart devices, many drivers have begun to use these while driving. Drivers check messages, voicemails, emails and more, even while traveling at high speeds on the freeway. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that a driver is 3 times more likely to crash their car when they text and drive.
The DMV reports that when people text, on average they take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds each time they look at their phone. For a car traveling at 55 mph, that means a person can travel as far as the length of a football field without looking. This makes it very easy to rear-end a car in front of you that has stopped or to hit a pedestrian, an obstacle, or to go into other lanes of traffic. Texting is one of the most dangerous things you can do as a driver.
Other Causes of Distracted Driving
So what else do people do when they are driving distracted? Being distracted can be anything that takes your eyes off the road for even a second. Reported causes of distracted driving include:
- Driving drowsy due to lack of sleep
- Reaching for a phone or other object in the car.
- Changing music on a device or changing radio stations.
- Using an app such as a GPS or maps app.
- Taking a photo mid-drive.
- Conversing with others, including looking at other passengers.
- Helping children or infants in the backseat.
- Eating and drinking.
- Looking at objects or events happening outside the car.
- Putting on makeup or getting ready in the car.
There are countless reasons why people take their eyes off the road. Drivers may not even be meaning to sometimes when they are checking behind them to change lanes. However, no matter the reason you’re distracted, you are putting yourself and others at significant risk when you don’t drive with your full attention.
10 Tips for Being an Alert Driver
So what can you do? If you know you are a distracted driver, make a goal to change now!
- If you just can’t resist answering a text, pull over to the side of the road.
- Set up your bluetooth in your car so you can talk on the phone without taking your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel.
- Get enough sleep so you avoid driving drowsy. If you are sleepy, pull over or have another passenger drive.
- Keep cold air flowing throughout the car. Warm air can make you more drowsy. Roll down the windows if you have to.
- Caffeine can help a driver if they are unable to stop and are drowsy or not alert. However, watch for the caffeine crash that can happen later.
- Get enough to eat and drink. Keep nutritious snacks in the car if you get hungry or thirsty. When you are thinking about your next meal, you’re not thinking as much about the road. Sometimes, gum can help focus you in a bind, but this is a second option to food.
- Have good circulation. If you drive a lot, make sure you stop at least every 2 hours so you can walk around. Do small exercises to get your circulation flowing and to help boost your energy.
- Have a friend drive with you, even if you need to carpool to work. A friend can help you avoid distracted driving and can keep you in check with texting and more.
- Plan your route. You don’t want to fumble with a map or GPS mid-drive. Plan where you are going and give yourself enough time to get there without rushing.
- Listen to something. Avoid music that is too calming, but listen to something that will keep you alert and awake. For some people, music does this and for others, audiobooks help for long rides.
Stay Safe on the Road
We want everyone to stay safe on the road, and it is something every driver can achieve. If fewer people were distracted while driving, the amount of car accidents and deaths would decrease. If you want more tips for staying safe on the road, call Scott Fort Collins Auto today at (970) 682-4202!