We live in a world of bountiful and impressive technological gadgets, but unfortunately, those gadgets have some negative side effects. If you use any of those gadgets on a regular basis while you’re driving, you could be putting yourself at risk of distracted driving.
Many people brush off the threat of distracted driving because the activities associated with it, like eating or texting, seem innocuous. But consider the fact that distracted driving was responsible for 3,477 deaths and over 391,000 injuries in 2015; that makes it less deadly but more harmful than drunk driving.
When you drive distracted, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury or death, and are putting the lives of others at risk as well. On top of that, if found guilty of distracted or impaired driving, you could be held personally liable for any damage you cause. So how can you tell if you’re a chronically distracted driver, and what can you do to fix it?
How to Tell If You’re a Distracted Driver
If you notice any of these sure signs, you’re probably more distracted than you realize:
- You try to text people or email while driving
Sending a text may seem like no big deal, but it will pull your eyes off the road for, on average, 5 seconds. If your car is traveling at 55 mph, that means you’ll travel the length of a football field without seeing what’s going on in front of you. If you find yourself texting or emailing at all while driving, you need to take a close look at your habits.
- You eat or drink while driving
Eating and drinking may not seem as dangerous, since you can technically keep your eyes on the road the whole time. However, you still need to take at least one hand off the wheel, and the act of eating may take up your focus, reducing your reaction time and increasing your likelihood of an accident. If you eat or drink beverages while driving, you have a recurring problem.
- You play with apps or gadgets while on the road
You can also get distracted just by changing settings or making a change on one of your apps or gadgets. For example, switching between songs, choosing a new playlist, or looking at your notifications can all take your eyes off the road and take a hand off the wheel, greatly increasing your danger.
- You find yourself veering from the center of the lane occasionally
One of the hallmark signs of a distracted driver is occasionally veering left or right of the center lane. If you think you can engage in distractions without it affecting your driving, but you find yourself drifting out of the center of your lane, you need to think again.
- You brake inconsistently
You may also be able to gauge your distractions based on how you brake. If you’re distracted by your environment, you’ll likely brake too soon for some events, too late for others, and inconsistently at other times. You may be tempted to believe this is fine as long as you come to a complete stop before hitting anything, but delayed braking reactions can cause an accident in front of you or behind you, and make the roads less safe for everyone.
Strategies to Correct the Problem
Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies that could fix or mitigate the problem:
- Rely on hands-free devices
Most modern devices are equipped with Bluetooth technology that allows you to connect to a speaker wirelessly. This should enable hands-free and eyes-free functionality that reduces your distractions to a minimum while still giving you access to your gadgets.
- Keep the phone in the glove box
Before you even start driving, put your phone in the glove compartment. That way, you won’t be tempted to use it or even look at it.
- Pull over if you need to
If you need to answer a text urgently for some reason, pull over. Don’t try to take care of it while driving. The same is true if you want to eat a snack or engage in another distracting activity.
If you do your part to reduce your own distractions, you’ll reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road by one, and the streets will get a little safer thanks to your vigilance. In large numbers, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries dramatically, and keep making the roads a safer place to drive.