Distraction is everywhere for drivers, and it always has been, from eating to talking to children to exhaustion. All of these factors and then some can distract you from the task at hand – driving carefully to your destination while maintaining control of your car and keeping an eye on the vehicles around you and the road ahead of you. Modern drivers, however, experience even greater levels of distraction thanks to smartphones. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month – but there is never a wrong time to make yourself more aware of the bad habits you, or your teen, have developed while behind the wheel.
- Stash the smartphone.
Whether you feel like you need to be constantly connected to your family, friends, or colleagues, the reality is this: Use your smartphone while you’re driving and you increase your risk of getting in a car accident tremendously. An AT&T survey found that 70 percent of motorists and smartphone owners ages 16 to 65 use their smartphone while they’re driving. And they’re not just talking on the phone, they’re not even “just” texting (61 percent). These smartphone users are sending emails (33 percent), surfing the internet (28 percent), checking Facebook (27 percent), taking selfies (17 percent), and checking Twitter and Instagram (14 percent). Put the phone away before you drive. Or simply turn it off. You can even install an app that auto-replies to any texts you receive while driving so that you don’t get the notifications about them until you turn off the car – and the person sending the message knows to not pester you while you’re attending to this important task at hand.
- Talk to your teen driver.
Teens may act like they don’t listen to a word you’re saying, but they do hear you. And, just like when they were little children imitating every move you made, they’re always watching you too. Your teen sees you using your smartphone while driving, or exhibiting other unsafe driving behaviors like digging around for something in your bag or reaching bag for something in the back seat. Talk to your teens, recognize your own limitations, own up to them, and work together with your neophyte driver to help develop him into a safe, conscientious driver who takes the responsibility of driving a car seriously.
- Be aware of pregnancy brain.
The risk of a woman being involved in an auto accident when she is pregnant is 42 percent higher than when she is not pregnant. The second trimester is when mothers-to-be are most at risk of getting in an auto accident, and researchers say that finally feeling good, feeling energized, and having a false sense of security can lead to serious distraction behind the wheel. Documented brain changes – and, of course the notorious hormones – are also blamed for impacting a pregnant woman’s reflexes and concentration. It’s easy to daydream about the life growing inside of you, but to protect that baby properly, make sure you’re operating at full capacity when behind the wheel and don’t allow yourself to be distracted more than you already are.
- Get your kids settled before you turn on the car.
There is always going to be something else that your kids need while you’re driving, especially the little kids still strapped tightly into car seats: “Mom, I dropped my book. Mom, I can’t find the tablet. Mom, my water bottle fell down.” You know your kids best, so get prepared for the trip you’re about to take – no matter how long or how short – before you turn on the car. Arm your kids with the snacks and diversions they need and explain in no uncertain terms that you won’t be picking up anything they’re careless enough to drop or that they cannot reach. All “emergencies” will have to wait until you’ve stopped at your destination. Distraction, thy name is parenthood.
Christensen Law is an auto accident injury law firm located in Southfield, Michigan. The team, led by David Christensen, represents victims who have been hurt or injured in distracted driving accidents.