Implementing a few common sense habits can eliminate distracted driving in your vehicle and will help keep you and your family safe on the road.

Driving while distracted is one of the leading causes of fatalities on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2020, it was the cause of more than 3,100 deaths. These deaths can be easily prevented if we all start making a few simple changes when we drive. Here are a few ideas to reduce driving distractions and avoid serious accidents.

Plan before you leave

We all leave late sometimes. For some of us, the drive is a chance to catch up on things we didn’t have time to do before leaving. We may think it saves us time to eat, apply makeup, change clothes, and text on the way. The trade-off for this time-saving multitasking is that we risk ourselves and others.

A better strategy would be to plan your travel, including giving yourself time to complete all those other tasks before leaving. It only takes a few minutes to review your upcoming day, write down the things you need to do, and realistically schedule time for them (of course, considering that something unexpected will always happen).

Use the safe driving mode on your phone

Smartphones have revolutionized our mobility and access to information. But they’ve also made it difficult to disconnect for even short amounts of time without feeling isolated, including while driving.

We often think using hands-free apps is a safer option, but sadly, statistics show they by themselves aren’t significantly safer than handheld devices.

Fortunately, smartphone operating systems now feature safe driving modes, such as Apple’s Driving Focus for iPhone. This limits notifications of calls and texts while driving. It can also have texts read aloud when connected to your vehicle’s audio system. This may be an acceptable compromise for people who aren’t willing to go completely radio silent while driving.

Get to know your smartphone’s capabilities and use its safe driving mode whenever you’re in the car.

Enroll passengers in safe driving

Passengers have a lot of influence on the driver’s ability to focus on the road. They can be the source of many distractions, but they can also help reduce distraction if they are aware of how they can help.

Most people will understand if you can’t fully join in conversations while driving. But it’s important to let them know you’re prioritizing safe driving. You can also enroll them in taking responsibility for non-driving tasks such as adjusting the temperature, changing the music, or even using a handheld device to navigate.

Even small children can help maintain safer driving habits. They may be willing to do many things for themselves if they understand it keeps them safer. This may also be the key to convincing them to keep the noise to a minimum while in the car. If you’re a parent, you know how difficult this can be.

Be present while driving

We’ve all had the experience of driving a familiar road, lost in thought, and then realizing you’re sitting in your driveway without the faintest memory of the drive. Most of the time, we don’t get burned for “zoning out,” but it is one of the leading causes of distracted driving accidents.

Thinking of other things makes you less alert to what’s happening around you and less able to deal with unexpected events. This is especially true when you’re dealing with heavy emotions.

If you’ve had a fight with a significant other or had a tough day at work, it’s not a bad idea to give someone else the keys or just stay home and ride out the negative emotions. If you must drive, first take a minute to breathe deeply, call a friend to talk it out, or sit and listen to some calming music. Once you’re more relaxed, you’ll be in a much better condition to drive defensively. 

When you can’t avoid a distraction, pull over 

At the end of the day, you can’t plan for everything that might happen while you’re driving. When things come up that can’t wait, it’s essential to know that pulling over is a perfectly reasonable option. Stop your car in a safe place, take care of what you need to do, and then get back on the road.

Arriving a few minutes late is always better than getting in an auto accident or getting pulled over for distracted driving. 

Educate your kids about the dangers of distracted driving

Kids today are growing up in a time of unprecedented technology. Sometimes it seems they were born knowing how to use it. But that doesn’t mean they intuitively know how to use it safely. When your kids are learning to drive, it’s crucial that you set clear rules for how they should focus while driving.

Remember that teenagers are notorious for believing they’re invincible, so be prepared to stand your ground and enforce these rules.

And we all know this, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. Kids are more likely to do what they see you do, rather than doing what you say. If you’re not following safe driving practices, they’re probably not going to either when you’re not present, no matter how much you remind them to put their smartphones away while behind the wheel. So take your own advice and lead by example.

In an accident, Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton can help

As injury attorneys, we see a lot of cases where someone failed to focus on driving, and it caused a lot of unnecessary pain and property damage. Before starting your engine, please plan ahead and eliminate distractions that would take your attention away from driving your best.

When accidents happen, know we are here to help navigate the legal aspects of recovery. If you are in an accident involving distracted driving, we’ll walk you through your options and help resolve things as quickly and painlessly as possible. Contact us for a free case evaluation.