The scary truth about distracted driving...and how you can avoid it

Ding!

In a true Pavlovian response, your attention immediately shifts from the road ahead to the cell phone in your cup holder. 

“Let me respond to this message really quick…”

In the five seconds it takes to pick up your phone and read your friend’s text, driving along at about 55 miles per hour, it’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Now for the really terrifying part.

Approximately 660,000 drivers admit to doing this very thing. So while you’re blindly driving the length of an entire football field, the people around you are, too.

 And it’s not just cell phone use while driving that’s literally killing us. It’s eating, drinking, adjusting the stereo or A/C, applying makeup…

Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the CDC.

The most disheartening thing? These deaths and injuries all stem from a cause that is completely preventable.

The good news is there are active steps you can take to prevent distracted driving:

  1. That text (or call) can wait

    As we’ve said, texting while driving just shouldn’t happen. Period. It’s actually illegal in most states. While you might think taking a quick phone call and chatting with your friend for a few minutes is no big deal, even hands-free devices could make you miss important visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash. You’ve heard about designated drivers, but what about designated texters? If you absolutely must read or respond to a text, ask a friend to help you while you’re behind the wheel. Be proactive and consider what calls you need to make, texts you need to send, or information you need to put in the GPS before you actually put your car in drive.

  2. Out of sight, out of mind

    If your phone is put away and you can’t hear it go off, you’re more likely to avoid this kind of distraction. Try putting it in your glove compartment or in your purse in the back seat. If you’re worried the phone going off will just be too much of a temptation, check out these awesome apps that help you ditch distracted driving. Apps like LifeSaver use GPS monitoring and a rewards system to help drivers break dangerous driving habits. This app can even be used by commercial fleet managers to monitor their drivers' behavior on the job. Other helpful apps include AT&T's DriveMode, and TrueMotion Family.

  3. Give me a break. No, really…

    Wanna hear another staggering statistic? One government study revealed that 37 percent of U.S. drivers have nodded off or actually fallen asleep at least once during their driving career. In fact, drowsy driving is shown to make you four times more likely to have an accident. If you’re exhausted, you’re better off pulling over and resting your eyes rather than trying to make it home faster.

  4. Stop the snacking, ditch the drinking

    We are a nation on the go, which means eating and drinking in cars is basically our national pastime. Although enjoying your favorite latte or lunch item while driving might seem alright, these can be potentially distracting. When spills occur or you have to look down to fish the last, stray fry from the bag, your eyes aren’t on the road, leaving you unable to react to quickly changing situations around you.

  5. Basically, just avoid multitasking in general

    As Americans, we spend a ton of time in our vehicles. We also are busy, busy, busy… so we think we can’t waste time in transit. We have to get things done, right? Wrong. Whether you’re a long-haul trucker or a soccer mom, when you’re out on the roads your number one job is to get from point A to point B safely. It’s not to solve your friend’s relationship drama via text, or to finish that big, juicy hamburger, or to finish applying your makeup.

Whether you drive an eighteen wheeler or a minivan, when your eyes are off the road not only are you endangering yourself, you are endangering the newborn baby sleeping soundly in the next car over. You’re endangering the businessman on his way to an afternoon meeting. You’re endangering the family of four enjoying their road trip.

Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. Every time we get behind the wheel, we have a choice to make. Will we keep our gaze fixed on the road ahead, or will we allow distractions to steal our attention?

The choice is yours, and we hope you choose wisely.