Distracted driving is a dangerous habit. And it doesn’t matter what the distraction is — taking your attention away from the road while driving can quickly turn disastrous. Even drivers who avoid using their handheld mobile phones while behind the wheel can be distracted by talking with their passengers, changing the radio station, adjusting the heat or A/C, or handing a juice box to a small child in the backseat.
It takes about 4 seconds to read a text. If you’re driving at 55mph, you’ll travel the length of a football field — a chilling fact when you consider how many things can happen unexpectedly in that distance, like traffic slowing suddenly or a pedestrian stepping into the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were over 3100 deaths in 2020 from distracted driving.
Congress has named April Distracted Driving Awareness Month to attempt to curb the problem. Learn more about how to raise awareness of distracted driving and keep yourself and your family safer with these helpful tips and resources.
Consider These Distracted Driving Awareness Tips to Stay Safer
Americans spend a lot of time behind the wheel, and most of us think we’re good drivers. Being a confident driver is a good thing — but getting too comfortable can cause even the safest drivers to take unnecessary risks. Try these distracted driving awareness tips to help keep you safer, and be sure to share them with your family, especially your teenage drivers.
Enable the Driving Focus on your phone. The ping of an anticipated text message can be an irresistible allure, so using your phone’s safety feature to help you ignore texts while driving can be helpful. Use technology to your advantage and set up the Driving Focus or Do Not Disturb feature on your phone so it doesn’t alert you of incoming texts and notifications while you’re driving. You can also go the old-school route and put your phone in the trunk or back seat while driving to help you ignore it.
Role model responsible driving habits for your children. Kids imitate the adults they see, so set a good example by not driving while distracted. If you must text, pull over or wait until you get to your destination — or designate a passenger to be your texter while you’re driving. And respond to other distractions responsibly, too.
Program your playlist and directions before you start driving, and don’t make changes while driving. If you have to pull over to reprogram your GPS, talk with your kids about why you’re stopping to do it. Reinforce your safe choice by talking with them about why it is safer to stop before looking away from the road.
Raise awareness by talking about distracted driving with your family. Many people would say using their mobile phone while driving to send a text is risky, but there are plenty of other everyday activities people do behind the wheel that can also be an issue.
Consider how distracting these common tasks are when driving:
- drinking a coffee
- opening a water bottle
- eating the French fries from the fast-food bag
- checking the GPS
- looking for music
- glancing in the mirror to check on a child in a car seat
- car dancing
- laughing with a passenger
- getting lost and trying to drive while your GPS is rerouting
Even the most conscientious drivers run into these common situations while driving, and people don’t always think of the risks. But turning attention from the road for even a few seconds while driving can have severe and deadly consequences. Talk with your family and teenagers about these risks. Remind them it is easy to underestimate the dangers of distracted driving — and that one second of distraction can have lifelong consequences.
Travel safely with your pets. Dogs are our best friends, but they aren’t always the best traveling companions. If your pet gets excited or nervous in the car, make sure you have a safe way to restrain or contain them while you’re driving. Putting your dog on your lap while driving may not be the safest choice, and your free-roaming dog could easily block your view or bump you with a cold nose and distract you.
Dog seatbelts, car seats, or crates can help keep everyone safer on the road, including your beloved Bella or Dexter. And don’t forget to keep your contact information attached to your pet if you get separated.
Use technology to your benefit. Many major insurance companies offer discounts on auto insurance to their policyholders who share their driving data with their insurance companies. Telematics programs can save some drivers up to 40%, depending on the insurer, driving habits, and other specific driver details.
Telematics programs measure your driving behavior using a mobile app or plug-in device. Insurance companies often measure factors like:
- how quickly a driver brakes, accelerates, or turns
- number of miles driven
- time of day the vehicle is driven
- if a driver uses a handheld mobile phone
Drivers who enroll in their insurance company’s telematics program get reminders in the app of safe driving behaviors, including information about not using a handheld device while driving. These reminders can help build safer habits, so use the technology to your advantage — learn to be a safer driver while also possibly earning a discount on your auto insurance.
Follow the campaign hashtag #JustDrive for more information. This year, the Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign uses the hashtag #JustDrive on its social media posts. Follow the hashtag to find more helpful distracted driving awareness tips and resources you can use all month long. And make sure to hashtag any content you create or share during the month and tag the National Safety Council to amplify your message.
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