Distracted driving doesn’t have to include a car full of screaming children (though that counts as well). It can mean being too tired to focus on the road, or trying to drive while juggling a phone conversation. It can even mean driving too fast for the road conditions. It’s also unfortunately something that a lot of drivers do too often.
Distracted driving accounted for the deaths of 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists in 2018 alone, for a total of 2,841 fatalities, and more than 400,000 injuries according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Recent data from the NHTSA also noted that in 2016, “Six percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Nine percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes.”
While studies have shown handheld cellphone use is down, distractions still affect drivers daily. Here are ways you might be distracted behind the wheel, and ways to remedy the situation:
Driving while tired can be an easy way to lose focus on the road. You don’t have to nod off to cause damage. A simple foggy focus can lead to missing a child darting into the roadway, or a truck putting on its brakes in front of you.
You can enjoy some tunes while you drive, but having lots of distracting noises can affect your ability to safely drive. These might come in the form of music, podcasts, or even DVDs or videos streaming in the vehicle. Limit passengers to headphone only use of electronics, so you don’t get distracted by all the sounds around you.
Thinking about a work problem while you drive? Your daydream might lead to a distracted driving incident. If you’re in the habit of taking speakerphone calls in the car while driving, try instead to wrap up meetings or conversations with colleagues before you get behind the wheel.
If you’re driving too fast on a suddenly icy overpass, you could quickly lose control of your vehicle. Instead of driving distractedly in changing weather conditions, buckle down and focus on the task at hand: getting to your destination safely. Even if you arrive late because you slowed down, it’s better than not arriving at all.
Even if you never speed, you could be guilty of tailgating. Following too closely to a car in front of you could spell trouble if they brake suddenly, if an animal jumps into the roadway or if they lose control of their own vehicle. Keep a cushion of space between your vehicle and the ones around you, and increase that space in poor conditions or at night, when your reaction time increases.