Distracted Driving Tips for Distracted Driving Month
Can you think of a day that goes by during which you never get distracted because you’re deep in thought? You know what I mean; while you’re thinking about things at home, food, friends, your relationship, or anything else in your life, you either forget what you were currently doing or someone walks in on you and speaks to you but you just don’t hear them. I’m pretty sure you chuckle and move about your business. Not so easy if you were driving.
As a society we can’t seem to wait for things very long. We have drive-thru’s so we can get our food or money quickly. There’s a time guarantee for food when we order it to be delivered and if we have to wait in line at the store, look out! My friends, it’s time to take a deep breath and relax. Life is a journey, not a race. Things can wait for you, including your text messages. Cell phone use while driving is turning into an addiction. This is mainly because we want the information now! Not in 10 or 15 minutes. Not in one hour. After all, isn’t it important to know the status of my friend’s lives at every waking hour? Umm, not really.
Cell phone use while driving is only one form of distracted driving. Often our passengers, music, food or beverages can distract us like our cell phones can. But here’s the real problem; anything that takes your thought away from driving is dangerous. I agree that having both hands on the steering wheel will help you steer better in an emergency, but having your mind on the driving task has to happen first. Think about it; anytime your mind is not on what you’re doing, you don’t do it very well, do you? Exactly.
Having the curiosity to look at something in your vehicle or even outside of the vehicle that doesn’t pertain to driving takes your attention away from the driving task. Once you look ahead and continue your thoughts with driving, there’s been a slight lapse in time. This is referred to as mental disengagement. Your mind took a brief intermission from driving, but now it’s back. In those few seconds, disaster can strike. You may have missed a stop sign, red light, pedestrian or cyclist. Kind of scary, right?
So here’s your new plan of attack to avoid distracted driving; follow through with a plan to remove the distractions before driving. Turn your phone off or put it completely out of reach in silent mode. If you don’t hear a message come in, you’re not going to be tempted to check it. Pre-set your music before your trip so you’re not tempted to set it while in motion. Have your beverage ready and easy to reach while driving so you won’t need to look for it. Let your passengers know what their role is. If they’re kids, give them things to do during the trip and plan breaks so they can burn off some energy before getting back into the vehicle.
Since most distractions are caused by ourselves, it’s up to ourselves to control it. I dare you.
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada and started in road safety in 1988. He was a judge during the first three seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper in 2005. Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines, and various websites. You can visit Scott’s blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.