The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Edited by Admin
The Dangers of Distracted Driving

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Today’s drivers have many distractions to deal with: other passengers, GPS navigation devices, music devices, food and drink, smoking, outside objects or events, and much more. Believe it or not, daydreaming is one of the top distractions named by drivers who have had distracted driving accidents. But ever since the advent of smartphones, there has been a steady rise in automobile accidents caused by drivers attempt to text while driving. These little devices have become so central to our lives that people sometimes don’t think twice about taking their eyes off the road to write or respond to a text. However, even the most basic text requires at least five seconds to write – and a few seconds of inattention while driving can have dire consequences. Three statistics tell a frightening story:

  • 35% of Canadian drivers confess to texting while driving.
  • In Ontario, one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour.
  • A driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road.

Many jurisdictions, including Ontario, have enacted “Distracted Driving” laws that target cellphone use. Sometimes drivers are not clear about what they are legally able to do while driving. The following are allowed in most provinces:

  • Using hands-free cellphones or voice-activated MP3 devices.
  • Using a Bluetooth or earpiece device.
  • Viewing the display screens of a GPS unit.
  • Calling 911.

Most jurisdictions prohibit the following:

  • Using cellphones for texting, dialling, or emailing.
  • Using hand-held electronic entertainment devices such as iPods, MP3 players or Gameboys.
  • Viewing display screens other than driving aids.
  • Using laptops, tablets, or DVD players.
  • Programming a GPS device manually.

Reducing Distractions

There are a few simple things to keep in mind that will help to ensure that you won’t be distracted by cellphones or anything else while driving. All it takes is some thought and planning!

First, plan your route ahead of time. Look at the map the day before you leave, and decide which roads you’ll be taking to get to your destination. Set the GPS, if you’re using it, before putting the car into gear.

Get enough sleep before driving, and be careful about medications that can make you drowsy. If you’re taking a long drive, plan to visit rest stops along the way, or bring along an extra driver and switch every couple of hours. If you’re alone and you find yourself getting tired, pull over and nap in the car, or find a place to sleep for the night. Never drive when you are feeling sleepy.

Adjust everything that needs to be adjusted before beginning your drive: get your seat properly set, adjust the rear-view mirrors, etc. Familiarize yourself with the temperature controls, and set them to a comfortable level. If you need to take off a coat or sweater (or put one on) during the drive, pull over to do that.

If you like to have music while you drive, choose a radio station ahead of time, or wait to change playlists until you’re stopped. Satellite radio programming is more likely to remain consistent than AM or FM radio. Don’t play the music so loud that you are unable to hear outside noises or warnings.

If you know that your cellphone may be a distraction, the best thing to do is to turn it off and put it away. If it’s turned off, you won’t be distracted by notifications and tempted to answer texts or other messages. If you do need to make a call or send a text, find a place to pull off the road. Even if you have hands-free calling, save lengthy, emotional, or important conversations for when you’re parked.

Conversations with passengers can also take your mind off the road. Don’t be afraid to ask people to refrain from talking if you are having trouble concentrating. Travelling with young children can be difficult. (If you’re going on a long journey, consider asking another adult to ride along with you to help.) Having unrestrained pets in a vehicle can be extremely dangerous, since animals are often unpredictable. Make sure any dogs or cats are in appropriate carriers, or are restrained safely.

If you stop to pick up food while driving, take a few minutes to eat before getting back on the road. People often underestimate how difficult it can be to eat without spilling or dropping food; the temptation then is to try to pick it up. This can be very dangerous. A few minutes won’t matter to your journey; it’s better to refrain from eating while driving. Make sure that any drinks you have are easy to drink and that you have a secure and easily accessible cupholder.

Smoking-related activities are also dangerous. Refrain from smoking while driving if possible.

And if a distracting insect such as a bee or wasp enters the car, don’t panic. Don’t attempt to deal with it while driving; pull over first and make sure you are safe before trying to get it out of the car.

Keep your eyes – and your mind – on the road, and arrive safely!