They’re everywhere: billboards featuring half-finished text messages, blaring “Will these be your last words?” or some similarly aggressive verbiage, admonishing drivers about the dangers of texting while driving. While using your phone behind the wheel is certainly a very dangerous, very problematic contributor to distracted driving accidents, there are many other, less known causes. Some of these contributors actually lead to more collisions than mobile devices. In fact, any visual, manual, and cognitive tasks unrelated to driving can cause a serious, unnecessary accidents. Ditch the multitasking and avoid these hazardous distractions:
According to Insurance Business Magazine, daydreaming is responsible for the majority of all distracted driving incidents, with 61% of drivers reporting they were lost in thought at the time of collision. Such a high rate indicates just how important it is to be fully present when you’re behind the wheel. If you’re feeling overly tired, emotional, or stressed, it’s a good idea to reconsider your trip, or find another mode of transportation. Ask a friend or family member to pick you up and take you to your destination, use public transportation, or call a cab.
Personal grooming, such as applying makeup or doing your hair, is another surprisingly common culprit, increasing the chance of an accident by two to three times, according to TeenSafe. If you’ve picked up this habit—or if you’ve rushed out the door half-put together on occasion—make sure you allow yourself enough time to prepare for your outing. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, use the employee bathroom at work, or keep a portable mirror that you can use in your vehicle while it’s parked.
Interacting with Other Passengers
You can’t control what your passengers do in your car, but you can set boundaries and expectations if necessary. This can be especially important if you have children. Work with them to create a set of rules for the car, and make sure you are consistent when it comes to enforcement. There are also plenty of backseat organizers and travel trays that make on-the-go entertainment easy and hands free for kids of all ages.
If you’re often traveling with your pet, never have them loose in your vehicle. Always use a pet carrier, and only take them with you when absolutely necessary. Driving is often a very stressful activity for pets, and minimizing their time in that environment will help keep you both safe, happy, and healthy.
Eating, Drinking, and Smoking, and Needing to Go
When your body is uncomfortable, your brain is preoccupied and unable to focus on the road. Whether you’re having a craving or needing to use the restroom, it’s important to listen to your body and take care of those needs before you get in your car. If you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you’ve underestimated drive time and need a quick solution, it’s best to make a pit stop at a gas station, grocery store, or fast food joint. Always finish your meal before you get back behind the wheel. You can also have a pack of gum handy while you finish your drive.
Adjusting any of the controls in your car requires you to take your eyes off the road. Don’t be tempted! Adjust your seat, headrest, and mirrors before you put your vehicle in drive, set the air to a comfortable temperature, and ensure that both your audio volume and selections are just right. If you listen to the radio and find that you station-hop during commercials, or if you like to skip through songs to find the ones you like, consider taking the time to make a few playlists you’ll enjoy on the road.
Wearing headphones almost completely eliminates your ability to hear anything around you while you’re driving. In fact, many states have made it illegal to wear headphones while driving, leading to a traffic violation or a fine. If you must make calls or listen to audible content, use a hands-free device, such as your car’s audio system, a Bluetooth kit, or a portable speaker.
In all of these cases, distracted driving is completely avoidable and essential to keeping yourself and others safe on the road. When in doubt, pull over! Phone a friend or family member to help you out, or use a ridesharing service like Lyft or Uber. Take the time to arrange your schedule in a way that enables you to take your time, and accommodates all of your needs. You will feel less stressed, less distracted, and more confident for the road ahead.