When we are behind the wheel of a vehicle, we need to put all our focus and attention on the task ahead. Not only are drivers in charge of the lives and property in their vehicles, they are responsible for ensuring the safety of those around them.
Driving is a challenging enough task when you consider poor road conditions, inclement weather and the various things that can go wrong with our vehicles or nearby cars. While we can’t control too many of these conditions, we can control how much attention we give to driving and paying attention to road conditions.
According to CAA, eighty-four per cent of distracted-driving-related fatalities in the US were tied to the general classification of carelessness or inattentiveness as per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This goes for Canada as well. The truth is there is no excuse for distracted driving.
Any activity that distracts us from attending to our driving even for a few seconds, can be catastrophic. This includes, fiddling with the radio, setting coordinate on the GPS unit, eating in the car and trying to navigate calls or text messages on a mobile device are all leading causes of distracted driving fatalities.
All of these activities are best done when the car is not moving. Our busy culture seems to promote multitasking which really has not place behind the wheel.
Consider that drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.
When you are focused on your driving, your eyes are looking forward, your brain is calculating distances, velocity and anticipating any sudden changes in speed or direction. Once you shift attention to the tiny screen on your phone for even a few seconds, nobody is driving the car.
Put your phone in silent mode and concentrate on driving
Better yet, put your phone in the back seat so you’re not tempted to use it. This is the most basic tip and the most useful. You can message and call people back later on when you’re not driving. They will get the benefit of your full attention and you won’t take unnecessary risks while driving.
If you have to take or make calls, use handsfree solutions
Having a Bluetooth headset or using your phone’s voice-enabled calling feature while driving is still distracting, but at least you still have your eyes on the road (but not your mind). Some people’s long commute necessitates them making and taking calls so using a hands-free solution is a lesser evil but consider that your focus is split between driving and your conversation.
Use your smartphone’s built-in features
Many smartphones give you the option of preparing canned messages like “I’ll call you later, I’m driving.” when you can’t answer the phone. Make use of these options, the other person will understand and even appreciate that you can message them back.
Some newer phones even know that you’re driving and can adjust options accordingly. Users who use smartphones to playback music, can use their voice to select an artist or a song, this is better than fiddling with menus while driving.
These are some practical tips to keep you focused and safe while driving.
Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. He is technology columnist and North American correspondent for Speed Magazine. He is a regular contributor to the Calgary Herald, Future Shop Blog, ItBusiness.ca, What’s Your Tech.ca, Evergeek Media, PCWorld Canada and Macworld Canada.