When you're behind the wheel, there are two things you should be focusing on — the safety of yourself and the safety of those around you. While driving can seem mundane at times, multi-tasking comes with high stakes. Here's a closer look at the dangers of distracted driving, which distractions are the most deadly, and how you can stay safe out on the road.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 26,000 people died between 2012 and 2019 due to distracted driving — and 3,142 died in 2020 alone. Further, distracted driving accounts for approximately 15% of injury crashes and 14% of police-reported traffic accidents. On the bright side, we did see a reduction in fatalities from motor vehicle crashes between 2018 and 2019. However, during that time, fatalities caused by distracted driving increased by 10%. So what types of distractions are most prevalent?
Which Distractions Are Most Deadly?
One of the biggest problems stems from the smartphones we all carry around with us 24/7. When driving seems boring or you hear the ding from a notification, it can be all too tempting to grab the phone and give it your divided attention. Unfortunately, that can increase the likelihood that you get in an accident by a factor of two to six.
The NHTSA reports that young drivers aged 16 to 24 use handheld electronic devices while driving more frequently than older drivers. But it's not just the younger drivers. The NHTSA estimates that 9.7% of all drivers use their cell phones (hands-free or not) while driving. Of the 3,142 distracted driving fatalities in 2020, 422 involved a cellphone.
With all of that said, drivers can be distracted by other things, too. Some of the common culprits are navigation systems, the stereo, passengers in the car, eating, drinking, or just daydreaming.
The bottom line is if you're behind the wheel and distracted, you are putting yourself and those around you in serious danger. In just a split second, a fatal accident can happen and lives can be lost. It's just not worth answering that text or finding that song.
How to Prevent Driving Distractions
How can you prevent yourself from getting distracted while behind the wheel? Well, it starts with being aware of the potential distractions. Start with your phone. Remove the temptation to check notifications by ensuring you can't hear them. Make it a point to put it away, put it on silent, or put it in "do not disturb" mode while driving.
You can also make a conscious decision that you won't try to multi-task while driving. For example:
If you get drive-thru, pull over and enjoy your food and drink while parked.
If you need to use GPS, set it up before you start driving.
If you want to hear a certain playlist, get it going before you shift into drive.
And when you have people in the car, let them know if they're being too distracting.
It's also important to ensure you're well-rested when you drive. If you're exhausted, you're more likely to drift off into daydreams (or real ones), which can also be very dangerous.
At the end of the day, these small changes can make all the difference.
Brush Up on Your Defensive Driving Skills
In addition to preventing yourself from getting distracted while driving, you can also help to protect yourself against other drivers who are distracted. How? By brushing up on your defensive driving skills. Defensive driving, in short, is about being aware of other drivers and not depending on them to drive correctly. You learn to take proactive steps like watching the traffic ahead of you, keeping your speed down, following the three-second rule, and always having an escape route.
Want to learn more about defensive driving? Check out our online course today!