You don’t drive under the influence, you rarely speed (much), and you don’t cut people off on purpose. In other words, you probably consider yourself to be a good driver, and that’s something we all should aspire to be.
However, you might not realize that some of your actions while you’re behind the wheel could be considered, well, risky.
Those risky behaviors fall under the category of distracted driving, which is the number one cause of car accidents in the United States. Yes, driving while distracted has officially beat out DUIs for the top spot, which isn’t a good thing.
How can you make sure you’re staying focused when you’re on the road and not adding to these statistics? Follow these tips to keep your “good driver” status intact.
1. Turn Your Phone Off
Regardless of the laws in your state, using your phone when you’re driving takes your focus off the road. Did you know that looking away for three seconds takes you an entire football field’s length forward?
You might assume nothing major can happen in three seconds or less, but there’s a PBS documentary that goes into detail about the realities of distracted driving. Three seconds is all it takes for your life to change irreparably, and it’s almost always due to the distraction of a phone.
The numbers in this JT Legal Group article say it loudly: Your odds of dying in a car accident are 1 out of 107. Why increase those numbers to answer your phone or scroll through your social media feed?
Unless you’re using it for navigation features, in which case, you should have a mounting accessory, keep your phone off. Switch it to airplane mode or Do Not Disturb until you pull over.
2. Prepare for Your Trip
Planning before you start driving is a vital part of staying focused. Before putting your car in gear, consider everything you might need to do when driving.
To begin with, put your seatbelt on and check your mirrors. You haven’t touched them since you got out of your car, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get knocked into by someone or adjusted accidentally.
Are you a music lover? Go ahead and choose your playlist now, and get your Bluetooth hooked up. You won’t have to take your attention from the road for those three seconds it takes to choose a song.
Finally, hook up your navigation and scroll through the turns instead of relying on your GPS to tell you at the last second. You know, drive like people did for over a century before technology made life easier but more dangerous.
3. Be Cautious About Your Passengers
We can’t always choose the people riding with us and their attitudes. This is particularly true for moms and dads with tantrum-throwing toddlers and young children (and sometimes even teenagers).
How you handle your distracting passengers is crucial to your safety and theirs. If you find yourself taking your eyes off the road to look back on a screaming toddler, you put them in danger. It’s best to pull over, handle the problem, and risk being late than to risk their lives and yours.
If you know your passenger is likely to distract you, try to avoid riding with them or engaging in excessively distracting behavior. Keep the music down low and your attention on the road.
Pets are a serious potential distraction, albeit a cute one. Pet owners riding with pets should have the animal in a stable, secure harness for everyone’s safety. Of course, they’ll prefer riding on your lap, but it only takes precious seconds for them to get injured when you slam on the brakes.
When it comes to passengers of all ages and species, choose safety every time if you have to choose between their happiness and safety.
Distracted driving only continues to get worse as technology makes entertainment more accessible. The best way to stay focused is to pretend you don’t have these modern-day conveniences and never drive when your passengers aren’t just as focused on the road or staying quiet as you are.
Remember, it only takes three seconds for your life, or someone else’s, to change forever because of a car accident. Don’t let your minor distraction be the reason for a major catastrophe.