Distracted driving is a serious problem on the roads, but it’s more common than most of us realise. Many people imagine talking on a cell phone or something more serious when they think about distracted driving, but the truth is that it often takes a lot less to take your eyes off the road and potentially cause an accident. If you’ve ever spent too long changing the station on the radio, taking a sip of your drink or even talking to passengers in your car when you’re behind the wheel, you might have driven distracted yourself.
While not every form of distracted driving is against the law, it’s good practice to try and avoid any form of distraction that you might face while you are in the driver’s seat and keep your eyes and focus on the road at all times. Looking away or becoming otherwise distracted for just a couple of seconds could have serious consequences for you, your passengers, and other road users. So, what exactly causes distracted driving and how can you avoid it?
Put Your Cell Phone Away
Cell phones are one of the biggest causes of distracted driving; click here to find out more about how they contribute to this problem for law enforcement in Canada. But even if you’re not actively holding your cell phone to your ear and taking a call when you are driving, you can easily become distracted by it when you’re behind the wheel. If your cell phone is in a holder and you receive a text, you might be tempted to look over to see who the text is from, causing your attention to be distracted from the road while you look.
While using your phone is against the law, it’s not illegal to briefly look over at it – but this could have serious consequences because it takes your attention away from what is going on around you. The best way to prevent this is by keeping your cell phone in your glove box or bag while you are driving. If you need to use your cell phone for any reason, you should always pull over in a safe spot to do so. If you use your phone for things like sat-nav directions, consider putting it in ‘do not disturb’ mode before you set off, to avoid getting notifications that might take your attention away.
Don’t Drive When You Are Tired
Feeling tired and sleepy should be a sure sign that you’re not up to driving. In fact, tiredness behind the wheel can increase your risk of being involved in a collision by a huge four times. In Canada, studies found that almost 20% of drivers admit to having accidentally fallen asleep at the wheel, which can seriously increase your risk of being involved in a collision. Even if you don’t fall asleep at the wheel, however, being tired and sleepy can significantly impact your ability to focus on the road and make good driving decisions. If you’re tired, it’s best to avoid driving altogether and get a ride instead, or even take public transport or a taxi to get to where you want to be. If you feel tired when you’ve been driving for some time, the best thing to do is pull in at the nearest service to get a nap.
Don’t Multi-Task Behind the Wheel
When you have been driving for some time, it quickly begins to feel like second-nature, which is why you might find it easy to multitask while you’re behind the wheel. But no matter how good you are at putting on a full face of makeup while you’re driving to work, remember that you’re still being distracted from the road ahead and the activity going on around you. Whether you’re finding a good playlist for your journey, putting your lipstick on or reading a text message from a friend, it’s best to do so before you get in the car or while your car is safely parked, rather than while you’re still on the road. It can be tempting to get other things done if you’re stuck in traffic, but even when your car is rolling along at a slow pace, it’s important to ensure that you’re giving the roads your full attention.
Limit the Number of Passengers in the Car
Most people who drive are happy to give rides to passengers, and sometimes they’re family members and you don’t have much of a choice. But when you do, there’s a lot of sense in reducing the number of passengers in your car at any one time. This is especially true if you’re driving around with a rowdy bunch who are talking and laughing a lot. This is a big problem for new teen drivers, who might not have built up the driving skills that they need to focus on the road while engaging with passengers at the same time. If you’re new to driving, it’s best to only take one or two passengers maximum in the car and ask them to respect your need to focus.
Avoid Eating and Driving
It might seem like a good idea to save time by grabbing your breakfast while on the way to work, and the increasing number of drive-thru facilities around the country has definitely made this easier to do. However, if you decide to get food during a journey, it’s best to sit and eat while your car is safely parked, rather than risk eating while you’re on the road. Eating and driving at the same time not only means that you’re going to have to divert some of your focus from the roads, but it also means that your hands are full, which can impact your driving ability. It also puts you at a higher risk of bigger distractions, like spilling food while you’re in the car.
People can only process so much information at once, and when you’re driving, you’re already dealing with information from multiple sources. Eliminating any kind of distractions in the car allows you to focus on the road ahead and stay safe.