Distracted driving has become a real problem over the past decade. With increasing numbers of people in possession of cell phones and seemingly unable to stop themselves from using them while on the road, the number of accidents has gone up. In response to this safety hazard, many states have enacted laws specifically addressing the use of mobile devices on the road. For instance, in Florida there is a secondary law* banning people of all ages from texting and driving; in California, there is a primary law banning both texting and handheld use while driving.
However, while phones are certainly some of the most common and dangerous distracted driving hazards, they are not the only ones. Here is a list of some of the most prominent threats and how you can avoid them:
Arguably, the most dangerous thing you can do while on the road is to look away from it. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, texting will take your eyes off of the road for an average of five seconds, which at 55 miles an hour would take you across a football field. It takes a lot less distance than that to get into an accident. One way to avoid this problem is to set up a voice activated system that you can use completely hands free. If you are really that busy on the phone, it will be worth the investment.
Handheld Phone Calls
Handheld phone calls not only take one of your hands off of the wheel, but they also take your mind off of the road and decrease the likelihood that you will hear cars coming. Also, the ticket that you might get from this offense in California is nothing to sneeze at. Again, a voice activated system works well as an alternative here. Otherwise, park somewhere and make your call.
Eating or Drinking
Obviously, eating and drinking takes your hands off the wheel, which is never safe. However, one of the other reasons that eating and drinking is dangerous is that if you spill something, you are more likely to become distracted. Whether your coffee burns you or you are reaching to get a beverage that is spilling on the floor, the distraction can cause an accident. If something spills, just leave it until you can retrieve it safely. Remember: it’s easier and cheaper to clean that stain than it will be to repair your car or pay for the increase in your insurance.
Eating breakfast before you leave the house or saving it until you are at work helps you to avoid this situation entirely and ensures that your hands stay on the wheel where they belong. If you really can’t wait, pull over and park in a safe location and eat in the car.
Trying to punch numbers or letters into a GPS while driving is just as dangerous as texting, since it takes your eyes and hands off the road. The easy solution is to set your GPS up before pulling out of the driveway or parking lot. Once it’s up and running, you shouldn’t need to touch it again.
Again, searching for artists or songs on an MP3 takes your eyes off of the road. There’s nothing about playing the music you are in the mood for that matters more than your safety, your passengers’ safety, and the safety of others on the road. What will you say to the cops after the accident, “I’m sorry officer, I just really needed to hear Linkin Park right then”? A good solution is to create a number of playlists ahead of time that are long enough to cover your whole trip. Connect the device and start playing it before leaving.
Applying Makeup or Other Grooming
Your makeup should not take priority over your safety or anyone else’s. Even fixing your hair at red lights could be dangerous if you accidentally take your foot off of the brake. And looking at yourself in the mirror could stop you from reacting to the traffic patterns around you. Any grooming should always be done before you leave the house. If you are running late, bring supplies with you and stop in the bathroom once you reach your destination.
Have you noticed a lot of distraction on the roads around you? Which one do you see the most and what do you think should be done?
*A secondary law is one that requires that the person was stopped for something else (e.g. speeding) before being ticketed for the specific offense. A primary law allows an enforcement officer to pull a person over for the offense itself. In this instance, you couldn’t be pulled over in Florida for texting and driving, but you could be pulled over for speeding and then ticketed for the texting if there was evidence. In California, on the other hand, you could be pulled over and ticketed solely for being seen texting or talking on a handheld and driving.