Studies have found that at any given daylight moment across the nation, approximately 660,000 drivers are using a cellphone or other electronic device while driving. Although most of us know it's a bad idea to check our text messages or try to navigate through an app while we're behind the wheel, the reality is that most of us have done it. A driving analytics company called Zendrive found last year that, using data from 3 million drivers and 5.6 billion miles of journeys, drivers use their cell phones on 88% of their trips. Per one hour trip, the average driver spends 3.5 minutes on the phone. That may not sound like much, but considering that a two-second distraction raises your crash risk by 20%, it's actually a colossal finding.
Still, you might say to yourself, I couldn't possibly be found guilty of distracted driving... could I? If you've engaged in any of the following behaviors, you could very well be involved in a serious crash. Unless you want to spend your spare time dealing with car accident lawyers, you'll want to kick these habits to the curb.
- Eating or drinking: Yep, if you take a sip of coffee or a bite of your breakfast while behind the wheel, that counts as distracted driving. To eat or drink, you are required to adjust your steering (you may have to take one hand off the wheel, for instance) and take your eyes off the road. Even if these adjustments are brief, they still matter. Imagine if you dropped a piece of food or spilled hot coffee on your lap. Unwrapping that granola bar can definitely wait.
- Taking a hands-free call: Just because you aren't physically dialing a number and holding your cell phone up to your ear doesn't mean your phone call isn't a distraction. Even if it's totally hands-free, your brain is still distracted. The bottom line is that you can't react as quickly or focus on the important task at hand when you're trying to listen to what the person on the other line is saying. Not only is this a dangerous behavior, but your friend or colleague probably won't appreciate it, either. If a phone call is truly urgent, find a safe place to park first.
- Using a GPS app: Most drivers like to utilize the navigation app in their phone over a GPS device these days, but either way, using these helpful tools can lead to distraction on the road. If you need to reroute or change your destination, do not do so when operating the vehicle. Even just looking at your phone in your lap for a second too long could result in a crash. Although we all know these tools are fantastic for getting us where we need to go, figure everything out before you depart. Otherwise, you may end up looking up accident law firms in your area.
- Playing out stressful scenarios: It's understandable that many of us use our daily commutes to think and replay life events. But if you find yourself zoning out thinking about stressful situations at work or problems in your personal relationships, that actually counts as distracted driving! It doesn't always have to be a physical manipulation that results in an accident. For those who find this habit tough to break, try to recognize when your mind is drifting and remind yourself to really focus on the task in front of you. Once you arrive home, you'll have plenty of time to think about that snide comment from a co-worker or fight with your significant other.
Pinpointing your own distracted driving behaviors can be difficult, but it's important to know when your concentration is compromised. By putting the kibosh on these behaviors, you'll be much safer when you're behind the wheel.