There is one simple reality that all drivers, both young and old, need to keep in mind: if you're texting when you're behind the wheel of a car, you are a disaster just waiting to happen. Distracted driving is now responsible for a growing number of accidents on the road today, and with the prevalence of portable electronic technology in conjunction with our busy schedules, the situation is growing out of control.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 3,000 people were killed in 2013 because of distracted driving, and of those people, over 10% were between 15 and 19 years of age. What makes this all the more tragic is that in virtually every instance, distractions could have been avoided.
Before you turn that ignition key, you should have your seat belt fastened, place any items you'll need within reach, and secure any cargo so it won't fall over or roll around. Reaching across the passenger seat or grabbing something in the back of the car are major sources of distraction that can be avoided with some organization. It also helps to have things laid out in your house before you even get into your car to make departure time less stressful.
Using Your Phone
It seems that ignoring the ringtone on our phones is beyond our capabilities, so unless you're driving for long periods of time, just turn it off. Most of our drives aren't that long and we can survive going without our phone for that short duration (or can we?). Plus, texts can be answered after you've pulled over and turned off the car. I carry a phone at all times, and when I get a call, I have my kids answer it. I also have them make calls when they need to be made. If I'm driving alone or it's an important call, I wait until I can pull over and talk because no conversation is worth risking the lives of my family. If you must talk on the phone, try going hands-free.
Driving while fatigued is a major distraction. Sleep is something we take for granted, but getting enough of it is important for all facets of our lives, including when we operate our cars. Make sleep a priority and drink plenty of fluids, because dehydration can cause fatigue. Eat a healthy diet and avoid too much sugary junk food, and never drink and drive.
Set aside more time to reduce the stress in your trip. This will make life more enjoyable and put you in a more civilized frame of mind, thus making you more pleasant to be around.
It is important to fuel our bodies to stay alert, but do it at home, where you can enjoy your meal. Eating in the car is stressful and distracting and ruins the experience. In addition to worrying about making a mess, there are a limited number of options, often leading to sub-optimal choices in terms of taste, enjoyment, and healthfulness.
Taking Your Eyes Off the Road
Keep your eyes on the road at all times, and make an effort to ignore frivolous distractions. When you're driving a 2,000 pound vehicle at 40 mph, good focus is imperative.
Dealing with the Kids
Sometimes people or events just demand your attention, so stay calm and pull over to where it's safe, preferably a parking lot, and take care of it. Don't try to do it while driving. For more information, visit the website for Distraction.gov. To learn more about what you can do, visit the website for National Safety Council.