Don’t let car distractions wreck your day. Stay focused and save these potentially deadly interruptions for later.
There’s more to driving a vehicle than meets the eye. At any given time, a driver is steering, moving their foot between the gas and the brake, using the clutch and gear shift, checking the rear view mirror, looking ahead for hazards, estimating distances, and watching other vehicles. Those tasks aren’t that difficult to combine once you get used to them; we’ve done it for about a century. But the in-car distractions of the last decade or so have added new and dangerous elements to that list.
It’s easier than ever to get distracted behind the wheel. The ding of a text message or navigating through a touch screen to change the radio station was unheard of just a few years ago. In today’s new car, distractions are built into the design, and that’s a problem.
Bloomberg reports that traffic fatalities are on the rise for the first time in decades, and though not all of those fatalities are attributed to distracted driving, the numbers paint a disturbing picture. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of traffic fatalities rose 21.9% for pedestrians, 15.2% for cyclists, and 15.1% for motorcyclists.
Even as many states enact laws against texting or using hand-held devices while driving, new vehicles are adding standard features that take your attention away from the road. Consumer Reports cites a study from the University of Utah noting that new infotainment systems can keep drivers “visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like entering navigation destinations.”
Not all the blame goes to texting and navigations systems, though. You’ll find them in this list, but there are plenty of other distractions to avoid when you drive.
10 Dangerous Car Distractions
Your dog may be a great travel companion, but Rover shouldn’t be in your lap or walking around. In fact, buckled into the back seat with a travel harness is the safest place for your dog when you travel. Some harnesses are even crash-tested.
In a survey by Exxon Mobil, 70% of drivers admit to eating while they are driving. That’s a lot of people worried more about dropping a tomato on their clean shirt than watching the road.
3. In-car technology
The days of push-button sound systems are disappearing quickly. In place of those, many cars now come with multi-function “infotainment” systems. These touch screens often require multiple steps to perform functions like changing the radio station or accessing the navigation system. What’s worse is the fact that many of these new systems enable drivers to text and check social media. Even with voice technology, these in-car distractions take our mind away from what we are supposed to be doing: watching the road.
4. Daydreaming or focusing on other tasks
Drivers who are “lost in thought” and have their minds on other things (like the address to plug into a navigation system, for instance) are not just in danger of taking a wrong turn. Approximately 62% of all fatal crashes come from drivers who just aren’t paying attention.
One thing leads to another, especially when it comes to traffic accidents. 16% of traffic accidents happen when drivers are paying attention to other accidents rather than paying attention to driving.
Combing your hair, adjusting makeup, shaving, and other grooming activities are best done at home. If you have to do these activities in the car, find somewhere to pull over.
7. Hands-free cell phone use
It’s not just handheld phones that are a distraction to drivers. Hands-free technology can also impair your ability to make responsible driving decisions. One study published in Brain Research found that listening to someone talk “reliably degraded driving performance.” Another study revealed that drivers exhibit impaired abilities to identify and respond to hazards.
And while this would seem to indicate that any conversation is detrimental to the task of driving, a passenger can help spot driving hazards. (Although this is only true for adult drivers, not for teens.)
Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt reports that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death in teens. At 60 miles per hour, it takes about 3½ seconds to travel the length of a football field. That’s about how long it took you to read that last sentence. Now apply that to looking at or responding to a text while you’re driving.
We’ve all been there: that moment of panic when we’re on the highway and a spider or bee lands on the steering wheel. Unlike most other car distractions, this one is out of your control. What isn’t out of your control is your reaction. Very few spiders in the U.S. are poisonous, and bees don’t want to sting you. Take a breath, pull over at the nearest rest stop, and remove the insect from your car.
Passengers can be great for a road trip, for saving resources by carpooling, and for help with navigation. They can also be very distracting. Set the expectation from the beginning that your passengers will wear seat belts, will be quiet, and will help with creating an environment conducive to focusing on the road.
How You Can Prevent Distracted Driving
There are several ways to help prevent distracted driving. This is a small set of ideas to help you get started.
- Take the Focus To The Finish pledge and commit to driving phone-free.
- Use an app that restricts phone usage while you and your teen are driving.
- Plug in GPS destinations before driving.
- Don’t multitask.
- Get your passengers to help navigate, use the radio, and adjust climate controls.
Even the best driver needs quality car insurance. Contact a local Pekin Insurance agent today for a free auto insurance quote.