After years or even decades on the road, driving a car often feels like second nature to commuters. However, even the most seasoned drivers tend to forget that operating a vehicle requires an extremely high level of focus and brainpower each time they get behind the wheel.
While a glance at your phone, snack on the road or conversation with your passenger may seem harmless, the reality is all of these activities are examples of distracted driving. Distracted driving includes any action that diverts your mental focus away from driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted drivers who don’t focus their full attention on the road are the leading cause of most crashes. In the U.S. alone, driving distracted kills nine people every day.
Preventing yourself from driving distracted
If you wish to keep yourself and loved ones safe behind the wheel, here are a few tips that can help you avoid distracting activities on the road:
- Don’t use your phone: Even if you are relying on your phone for music or navigation, you must limit your phone use while you’re driving and set up your playlist or GPS before leaving. Unfortunately, even hands-free technology can increase your risk of an accident. Turn on your “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving or download an app that silences calls and texts when your car is moving.
- Don’t multitask while driving: While most people believe they can do several things at once, the reality is multitasking while driving isn’t possible. Eating, using your phone, talking to a passenger or reaching for an object in the backseat all divert your attention away from the road and put you at a higher risk of getting in a crash.
- Save serious conversations for later: If you have passengers in your vehicle, try to keep the conversation light and minimal, so it doesn’t pull your attention from the road. A study from Carnegie Mellon University that asked drivers to listen and respond to questions while driving found that brain activity shifted from driving to areas of the brain that process language. As a result, the drivers in the study were less likely to see objects and more likely to hit them.
- Keep small passengers safe: Be sure that all young children and pets are properly secured in their seats before you start driving. If you need to adjust them on the road, pull over and park safely before tending to them.
Most drivers are guilty of some form of distracted driving. But while the action may seem quick or innocent, the fact is you are putting yourself and others on the road in grave danger. Always keep your full attention on the road while driving to stay safe behind the wheel.