These 15 Driving Distractions Could Ruin Your Day
Wouldn’t it be nice to settle in to your morning commute in total relaxation, catching up with a friend in the passenger seat next to you, or with hundreds of friends all at once on social media? Imagine bringing a breakfast burrito to eat on the way to work, and never having to worry about spilling salsa into your lap. These are reasons some people long for a self-driving car.
No matter how you feel about driving, whether you love it or hate it, the writing is on the wall. We’ll soon be sharing public roads with self-driving cars. As of this writing, in early 2018, twenty-one states had passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The US Department of Transportation is also working on guidelines to assist in the rollout of automated vehicle technologies.
We’re all tempted by our mobile phones and other common distractions that take our eyes and our minds off the road while driving. Each year, state lawmakers pass new laws against distracted driving that are meant to scare us into safer driving habits. But we’re all human. And we’re all capable of letting our guard down for just a moment to reach for a drink of coffee when, really, that’s all it takes to cause a traffic collision. All we can do is remind ourselves that modern life is full of distractions, and none of them are important enough to risk injury to ourselves, our passengers, or any other travelers on the public roadway.
Think of it this way. It may be just a matter of time before the technology that has introduced so many distractions for drivers goes on and eliminates driving distractions, putting a computer in control and letting everyone relax from one end of a journey to another. Nobody knows just what vehicle transportation will look like ten years from now. But there’s a good chance that we will see more and more technology, as we already have. As you look at all the common distractions in the list below, remember that the age of the automobile as we know it is coming to an end. Be one with the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brake pedal, and the rest of your vehicle control system, while control is still in your hands.
Main types of driver distraction
Adjusting the temperature of your vehicle may seem harmless. However, when you reach over to fiddle with the controls, you briefly take your attention from the task of safe driving. Taking your hand off the wheel to adjust the control puts you at risk because you’ll have less control.
Solution: If someone is sitting in the front passenger seat of the car, don’t hesitate to ask for help with air conditioning or heating. Also, some newer cars have controls on the steering that allow you to adjust heating and air conditioning. Practice using these controls. After a while, using them will be as easy as typing on your laptop keyboard.
Did you know water can be as deadly as alcohol? That is, if you’re drinking while driving. Just taking that sip of water could mean letting go of the wheel, tilting your head back, or unscrewing a bottle cap. These are all distractions.
Solution: If you have a long trip in front of you, consider taking steps to control your thirst. Don’t consume caffeine before you leave. It causes dehydration. Fill up with plenty of water before you go and stop often to replenish yourself with fluids. If you don’t have much time for stops, chewing gum or sucking hard candy will reduce your thirst by producing extra saliva.
Using earbuds while driving is not a good idea. They not only take your mind off the road. They also disrupt your hearing. You might miss the sound of an ambulance siren. Or the sound of a train. Or another vehicle trying to get your attention.
Solution: Many cars have USB ports and wireless technology, allowing you to connect a mobile phone directly to the car stereo system. There’s no good reason to use earbuds from the driver’s seat of a car.
We live in a fast-paced world. Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still long enough for all of us to enjoy a comfortable lunchtime meal. Whether balancing a hamburger with one hand while you drive or reaching for a handful of trail mix, just know that food is a serious driving distraction.
Solution: Instead of multitasking at the driver’s seat, look for ways to set aside a little time to eat before you hop in the car. Pack a lunch at night so you’re not so rushed in the morning. Settle for a light snack so you’re not so tempted by hunger while driving. By freeing up time to eat meals in comfort, at a table, you won’t just be safer. You’ll enjoy mealtime so much more.
Looking in the rearview mirror to fix your hair is an accident waiting to happen. In the seconds it takes to comb your hair, a car going the speed limit on an interstate highway can cover the length of a football field.
Solution: If you’re not happy with the way you look when you leave home in the morning, go ahead and store a few supplies in the car for a touch up once you reach your destination. Just make sure they’re out of reach from the driver’s seat and resist temptation if you get the urge to beautify at a traffic stop along the way.
No matter how your kids usually behave, expect a variety of driving distractions. Crying babies. Shouting matches with siblings. Car sickness. “Are we there yet?!” It can be difficult to concentrate with so much going on behind you.
Solution: Never hesitate to pull off the road at a roadside stop or parking area. Help your children to be the distracted ones. Keep the back seat well stocked with new books that match their interests, snacks, and road games. These things may not hold your kids’ attention for long, but they can help get you closer to your destination in one piece.
Dogs are notorious for being distracting passengers. They not only climb from the front seat to the back seat, they sometimes plop down on the driver—lap dog style. Hawaii passed a law stating a dog cannot ride on the driver’s lap. We can see the logic behind this one.
Solution: Pet stores sell car seat restraints and other options that are safe for pets of all sizes. No matter how cute and loveable your furry little friend is, you can both survive a few hours apart. The animal might even smother you with kisses for being a safe driver when you let it out of the car.
It’s against the law in California to hold a mobile phone while driving. Does this mean it’s always safe to carry a conversation using a hands-free device? Paying attention to a phone conversation means paying a little less attention to the road.
Solution: Many mobile phones have Do Not Disturb settings. You can manually turn this feature on before driving. You can also customize a phone to detect when you might be driving and revert to Do Not Disturb mode automatically. In addition, the phone can automatically send a text message when someone tries calling, notifying the caller that you’re driving and you can return the call later.
When popular navigation apps like Waze detect that you might be driving, they ask users if you are a passenger before allowing you to proceed. There’s a reason they do this. GPS systems are tremendously convenient, but they can also be distracting.
Solution: Set the navigation system before you begin to drive, and pull over if you need to make any changes to your route.
We’ve all looked through the side window in rush hour traffic and seen the next driver bopping around to the beat. Or getting animated about something we hear on the radio. It happens to the best of us.
Solution: Try to keep the volume down. Loud noise has more effect on your ability to focus. Also, if you really want to concentrate on a certain program, remember that many radio stations let you freely stream their programs at any time. Get home safely and tune in when you can concentrate fully.
Reaching for your wallet while driving is an example of poor judgment. If your wallet is in your pocket, you’ll have wiggle and shift around to reach it. If it’s in your purse, you may have to dig around before you find it. Better to perform these activities when the car has come to a full stop.
Solution: If you’re in such a hurry that you can’t wait to stop the car before reaching for spare cash, think about simplifying matters. You can attach a transponder to the car windshield, automatically paying bridge and highway tolls. You can also make use of mobile payment apps that sync your credit card account with a mobile phone so you never have to reach for a wallet again.
We all recognize how distracting mobile phones can be for drivers. How about passengers holding mobile phones who flood the driver with pictures, music, and other information that pops onto the screen? Or passengers who just have a lot to say to the driver, even if they don’t have a phone in hand? Sometimes, the most dangerous distractions are the ones who doesn’t have an off switch and whose feelings may be hurt if you ask them to please quiet down.
Solution: A driver’s first responsibility is to drive safely. It’s natural to look at someone you’re talking to. And it’s polite to give your full attention. But safety comes first while driving.
Anytime we gawk out the side window of the car, we’re in danger of distracted driving. It may be a traffic accident or an eye-catching billboard. Just remember, if something is distracting you, it may be distracting others too. The only thing more dangerous than one distracted driver is multiple distracted drivers near each other.
Solution: If you’re especially curious about something you see on the roadside, make a mental note and see what you can find out when you’re not driving. You might find more information on social media, or by asking a friend. You could also hop on a bicycle and get a better, safer look from the side of the road.
While you may think no one reads while driving, a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 31 percent of adults admitted to sending or reading email or text messages while driving.
Solution: Willpower, people. Sometimes, it’s that simple. We know reading while driving is hugely dangerous. Please don’t do it.
It takes hand-eye coordination to drive. And to send a text message. As we said earlier, in a matter of seconds, you can drive the length of a football field with your eyes completely off the road.
Solution: The Do Not Disturb setting on your phone comes in handy with a lot of driver distractions. Use it so other people know you are driving and so you remember where a driver’s priorities ought to be. Then, check messages and respond when you stop or arrive at your destination.