You’ve likely heard that some states are encouraging or even mandating the use of hands-free devices when using one’s smartphone to talk. But car accidents from distracted driving has remained at relatively the same levels. As of 2015, the death rate of distracted drivers was over 3,400 throughout the United States. So, what’s causing distracted driving to still be a problem? The truth of the matter is that using your phone, hands or no hands, can still be distracting to a driver in a number of ways.
Here’s what you can do to ensure that you remain undistracted while driving.
Don’t Use Your Hands-Free Communication Devices
Even as communities are adopting the use of hands-free communication devices to try reducing distracted driving casualties, the numbers say that it has done little to prevent further deaths and injury. That’s because even without your hands on your phone, even with both hands on the wheel, if you’re busy talking to someone through your phone, your brain becomes distracted. The energy that it is spending to process your conversation is drawing away from the very resources that it would be using to process moving objects and analyzing the imagery that’s right in front of you. That can tip the balance in the wrong way and lead to a terrible outcome.
Make Your Phone Less Accessible (Less Tempting)
Out of sight, out of mind. Or at least, out of hearing. To make your phone less tempting, turn it off and stow it away, or put it on Driving Mode so that it does not disturb you while you are driving in your car. You can always consult your social media, emails, and text alerts when you’ve come to the end of your driving trip. Most smartphones today have an auto-response feature to let your friends and family know that you’re driving should they attempt to contact you. You can always respond to them when you’re done driving and have parked.
If You Must Use Your Phone, GPS Only
Understandably, some people may use their phone for the GPS function in order to reach their destinations without getting lost. If you must do so, use a smartphone mount, such as one that attaches to the car’s AC grill on the center dashboard. This way your phone stays well within your field of vision. This also helps you keep your eyes on the road, hear the GPS’s directions clearly, and you can quickly glance at the map without ever losing sight of what’s in front of you. It is imperative that you do not lose sight of the road while driving.
When using your phone as a GPS, it is very important to set your route and destination before you start driving. If you must change destinations or otherwise change a setting on your GPS, find a place to pullover and then make the changes to your GPS program. Don’t do it while in the middle of actively driving.
Music Through Your Phone
Playing music through your phone can be just as distracting as blasting music through your car radio. If you decide to play music, keep the volume to a minimal level so that it doesn’t prevent you from hearing sounds from traffic on the road. You wouldn’t want to miss the sounds of screeching brakes or crashing metal if an accident is about to happen or has already occurred.
This also applies to listening to YouTube videos on your phone. Avoid doing this as it may tempt you to look to your phone. You can always enjoy your favorite YouTube channels once you’ve parked your car and are no longer needing to drive.
Distracted Driving Affects Us All
As you can see, there are a variety of ways that just a phone alone can distract a driver. Whether it’s through visual distraction of the eyes, tactile and manual distraction of the hands, or cognitive and mental distraction, a phone can take away just enough concentration to cause a potentially awful accident. How awful of an accident?
In a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, more than 2,800 individuals were killed because of a distracted driver. That doesn’t include the roughly 400,000 that were injured from distracting driving. From 2010 to 2018, deaths related to distracted driving hovered around the range of 2,800 to 3,200 with an average of 3,000 deaths a year. But these deaths can be reduced by simply waiting to use one’s phone after the driving is done.
Today, the majority of distracted drivers are within the late teen range—often students who are reaching the end of high school or just beginning college. Their main cause of distraction? Their phones. What’s more, they are also the demographic to least likely wear a seatbelt and more likely to have consumed alcohol before driving. It goes without saying that this can be a deadly combination for both the young driver and those around them on and off the road.
Be mindful of your phone use while driving, and if you have friends or loved ones who are prone to using their phone while driving, encourage them to consider the potential consequences and how it can impact their safety. No phone distraction is worth the potential injury from a car accident, or worse, the loss of a life.
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