The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, or fiddling with the sound, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. They refer to texting as "the most alarming distraction" because it takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. They help people understand the magnitude of this problem with this analogy: In five seconds, a car driving at 55 mph travels the length of an entire football field. Imagine your eyes closed while driving that distance and the reality of the dangers of texting while driving is understood.
But what about the dangers beyond texting and driving. You see it all the time - someone eating lunch while driving, applying mascara (this is tricky), reaching for falling objects and more. And with smartphones it's not just texting, it's loading a navigation route while already underway, or even watching streaming video.
While new distracted-driving laws and their enforcement struggle to keep up, increased awareness can help apply social pressure to minimize this behavior. In the meantime, we offer a few tips to help minimize accidents and bring everyone home safe.
Driving without focus is not just a public safety issue, but a growing employer concern. Employers could be held liable for accidents caused by employees driving and engaging in work-related phone calls or texts. The first line of defense is crafting a helpful and clear policy for the safe use of cell phones for your employees on the road.
We offer here, our tips for safer driving:
1. Know Your Destination
Entering your destination and allowing a few minutes for your phone's GPS to calculate your can make all the difference as you head out onto the road. Our impatience leads us to delay this input until we are already driving, but giving the system time to load properly is equally beneficial as taking a quick overview of your directions to make sure you are aware of upcoming construction zones, and suggested alternate routes. Prepping your journey even before your planned time to leave can give you a better sense of the amount of time to your destination. Giving yourself a cushion of time for arrival can keep you from the dangers of speeding and driving under pressure.
2. Buckle up for Safety
Buckling up has taken a positive turn in the last several decades thanks to major public service campaigns and law enforcement. However, still too many people head on to the road unbuckled. Make it a habit to buckle up before the car is in motion.
3. Out of Sight
To avoid temptation to text while driving one option is to put your cell phone in the glove compartment before you're underway. Another great habit is for women to place their purse behind the driver's seat where it can't be reached in transit. Simply placing our phones out of sight can keep our eyes on the road without the brain's habitual need to check every message or "check on things" at each light.
Insurance Information Institute ( I.I.I.) publishes safe phone habits which include:
- Pull off the road to a safe location if you must use the phone or text with someone
- If you must dial from the road, use voice-activated dialing. Program frequently called numbers, your local emergency number, and your insurance company into your phone and use voice-activated dialing.
- Let your voice mail pick up your calls while you’re driving.
- If you must make or receive a call while driving, keep conversations brief. If a long discussion is required or if the topic is stressful or emotional reschedule it for a later time.
5. Pass Along Your Knowledge
Talk about good driving habits. As parents, this needs to be done with kids even before they are of driving age. As with all parenting, they are watching what we do despite what we say. As employers, this needs to be done with regularity in the workplace. Crafting a distracted driving policy is a start. Consider including the topic in at least one safety meeting each quarter and post friendly reminders in the break room or near the doors where employees leave. Your words may give pause to our negative habits and save a life.
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