We live in an incredibly stimulating world, so it can be hard to stay focused on any task. Distractions can be frustrating when we’re trying to work or enjoy our hobbies, but when we’re driving, they’re downright dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2020 alone.
It’s important for each one of us to do our part to prevent the senseless, tragic loss of life that can result from something as simple as boredom and a lack of stimulation. Cars are incredibly dangerous when not operated safely, and they should be respected for their potential to cause destruction and tragedy. We hope that illuminating the most common causes of distractions on the road will help keep you, your family, and your community safe.
- Using your phone
Phone use has become so ubiquitous with distracted driving that the term ‘texting and driving’ is seemingly synonymous with it. But the truth is that texting is just one part of the equation. There are a million things people do on their phones while driving that are dangerous, including changing music and podcasts, looking at social media, checking emails, looking at maps, and answering phone calls. Unfortunately, younger and less experienced drivers are more likely to be distracted by phones than older drivers.
Avoiding phone use while driving is easier said than done. Let’s face it, phones are addictive, and apps constantly compete for our attention. The best way to prevent temptation is to remove the option for it entirely. Try putting your phone in your center console or glove compartment. If you need it for navigation, turn voice commands on so you’ll know what to do without looking. If your phone has a do not disturb while driving feature, use it.
- Drinking or Eating
Life can be hectic, and when you’re busy, it’s sometimes tempting to have a meal on the go. Unfortunately, the NHTSA teaches us that you’re 1.57 times more likely to crash while eating. Some studies have even suggested that eating while driving is more dangerous than using a phone. Not only does it distract you, it uses one or sometimes both of your hands. It also can create a mess that you may be tempted to wipe away with your hands.
Try and plan your meals ahead of time on busy days when you need to drive a lot. In a pinch, choose meals that are quick to consume so you can pull over and eat before returning to the road. As far as drinking, try to stick to water with no cap so you won’t have to use both hands when you drink. While drinking, be sure to keep both eyes on the road.
- Children and Pets
If you have kids, you’ll inevitably need to drive with them sometimes. Obviously very young children should be kept in car seats, but as kids get a little older and grow out of car seats, they can cause a lot of distractions by asking for your attention or chatting with one another in the back seat. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about road safety from a young age. Make sure they understand why you need to concentrate and they’ll be more likely to be safe when they get older.
You won’t be able to help your pets understand road safety, but you can avoid distractions by keeping them constrained. They may love to stick their heads out the window or stick their heads up to the front seat to lick you, but it’s safer for both of you to avoid this while driving. Crates work for smaller pets, but for larger pets, you may want to opt for dividers to keep them away from you.
Unfortunately, your responsibilities don’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t matter if you’re going through a bout of depression or a stressful breakup, you’ll often still need to drive. The sad truth is that people are ten times more likely to get into a car crash if they drive while visibly angry, sad, or agitated. Driving can also exacerbate negative emotions, leading to reckless driving and other unsafe behaviors.
If you must drive while in a state of emotional distress, take a few moments ahead of time to try and calm your mind. Deep breathing, meditation, and other similar techniques can have a remarkably calming effect in a short period of time. If your emotions flare up while you’re on the road, pull over to a safe area at the next opportunity to calm yourself.
Sometimes, you don’t even need an external distraction for your attention to stray from the road. Driving is dangerous and often stressful, but it can also be very boring, especially when you’re on a highway for long periods of time with no noticeable changes. The human mind naturally craves stimulation. However, a 2017 study found that up to 62% of distracted driving accidents could be attributed to wandering minds.
Avoiding daydreaming is trickier than other distractions, because there is nothing you can avoid or put away to prevent it from happening. Oftentimes, it’s the lack of other stimulation that causes your mind to wander to begin with. The best method to avoid daydreaming is to repeatedly remind yourself to watch the road. If you can make a habit of calling attention to your wandering mind. Attention works much like a muscle, so practice makes perfect. Meditation is a great tool for maintaining control over your concentration.
Have you been the victim of a car accident due to driving distractions?
We sincerely hope that rates of distracted driving decrease and that our roads become safer, but until then, it’s important to seek justice for those who have been the victims of accidents created by driving distractions. Lawsuits have the power to deter future instances of distracted driving, making the roads safer for everyone. Permanent catastrophic injuries or death is too high a price to pay. All of these listed distractions can wait. Do your part to be an attentive, responsible driver.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a car crash caused by distracted driving, we encourage you to contact the office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst today for a free consultation. If we’re able to work together, we promise to stand with you and help you achieve the justice you deserve.