Drunk driving may be the leading cause of accident-related deaths, but distracted driving causes more accidents. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 9 people die and 1,000 are injured every day by distracted driving, and all of us are guilty of it in one way or another. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate distractions, these tips will help you reduce the risk.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distractions interfere with three functions needed to control the vehicle:
Visual – The driver’s eyes leave the road.
Manual – The driver’s hands leave the wheel.
Cognitive – The driver’s mind is on something other than driving.
Most distracting activities cover at least two areas. For example, changing stations or tracks on the radio involves taking one hand off the wheel, looking at the radio and deciding what to set it to. There’s no way to completely eliminate distractions, but reducing their frequency and length can help you keep your attention on the road and your car from being in a collision.
Don’t Use Your Smartphone
On average, it takes 5 seconds to send or read a text. At 55 mph, that’s enough time for a car to travel the length of a football field. It should be no surprise that young drivers are the biggest offenders. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) found that 3.8% of drivers of all ages were looking at their phones, while 4.4% of drivers between 16 and 24 were using them.
Almost every state has laws restricting text messaging while driving, and 15 states outright ban phone use while driving. In Wisconsin, drivers with an instructional permit or a probationary license are banned from using their phones unless it’s an emergency. In most cases, commercial drivers are banned from phone use unless operated with a hands-free device like a Bluetooth headset. Texting is banned unless it’s related to a system built into the car, it’s voice-operated, or it’s otherwise hands-free. Video playback is illegal for non-commercial drivers, even if the driver can’t see the screen.
Both Android and Apple have “Do Not Disturb” modes that can be turned on when driving to block incoming messages. In iOS, this mode can be set to activate automatically if it detects high-speed motion indicating the phone is in a vehicle.
Use Car-Friendly Phone Controls
While you can wait to call or text, there are plenty of reasons to use your phone while driving including navigation, weather reports, and audio streaming. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and many third-party apps provide an interface that’s designed for ease of use while driving. Most recent infotainment systems can connect directly to the phone, applying app functions directly to the vehicle’s built-in screens and controls.
Set Up Your Car Beforehand
Modern cars offer seemingly endless options for everything from traction control to air circulation. If you’re in a new vehicle or a rental, take some time to make sure everything is set up how you want it, so you don’t have to be glancing down at the infotainment screen constantly during your drive.
Steering wheel controls let you keep your hands on the wheel while handling common functions like changing the radio station or answering a call. Learn what these functions do so you can make adjustments without having to look away.
Don’t Drink (or Eat) and Drive
Texting and driving get a lot of attention because they’re new, but food is an even greater threat to safety. In a study conducted by the NHTSA, they found that eating or drinking while driving increased the odds of having an accident by 80%.
In the study, the agency identified the foods that are the most dangerous. Coffee was ranked #1 and hot soup #2, which shouldn’t be a surprise when spills can be painful. Tacos were in third place due to the awkwardness of eating them. The other foods on their list are all messy foods including bar-b-cue, chili, and powdered donuts. This leads to distractions from cleanup and problems gripping the wheel.
Get Ready Before You Get in the Car
Need to shave? Don’t have all your makeup on? It’s better if you take the time to get ready before you get in your vehicle.
When Accidents Happen, Choose Merton Auto Body
Merton Auto Body is an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop and our technicians are ASE certified staff, giving us the skills, training, and tools to repair your vehicle. Our auto body estimating center works with your insurance company directly, so we don’t just do good work, we’re able to do it quickly so you can be back on the road as soon as possible. Visit our website to schedule a free online estimate or stop by our convenient Sussex, WI location. We proudly service Waukesha County and the surrounding Lake Country areas, including Pewaukee, Delafield, Hartland, and Oconomowoc.