How to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents
Sending a text, applying lipstick, eating your burrito — what do all of these have in common?
They’re all forms of distracted driving.
As a driver, it’s your responsibility to focus on the road in order to keep you, your passengers and other people on the road safe from accidents. We’ve put a spotlight on some risky driving behaviors that we hope can help influence you to keep your focus on the road.
Table of Contents
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
So, what is distracted driving? A good distracted driving definition is doing anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving. Any time your mind and/or eyes are taken from the road, you’re technically distracted, which means an increase in the risk of an accident.
Distracted driving statistics alone should have us all concerned for the safety of everyone on the road. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that texting is the most common form of distracted driving — and the most dangerous. That’s why it gets its own section.
While you might acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, it’s easy to fall into the temptation of sending a quick text. But think about this: Your visual focus is on your screen instead of the road, your hand(s) is taken off the wheel and on the device, and you’re cognitively thinking about the message and communication in front of you. Your attention is completely taken away from the task at hand.
Why texting is distracting
To put it into perspective, five seconds at 55 mph of taking your eyes off the road gets you about 100 yards — which is the length of a football field! That’s a lot of distance to not be paying attention.
The National Safety Council reports that 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by a distracted driver who was texting. And, believe it or not, they also reported that texting and driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. Distracted driving facts like these are a real wake up call.
Is it Illegal to Use Your Phone While Driving?
The truth is: it depends on which state you live in. As of 2020, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports that there is a hand-held cell phone use ban in 22 states, with 48 states banning text messaging for all drivers. Find out the distracted driving laws for your state to make sure you’re following the rules of the road.
While it’s important to know your state laws, the best answer is to just stick with a “no phone use while driving” mentality.
Common Ways People Drive Distracted
The first step to preventing distracted driving is understanding what distracted driving is. We’ve highlighted some of the most common forms of distracted driving with different ways to limit distractions while driving.
Checking your GPS
We’ve come a long way from an atlas and fold-up maps. Even printing out directions from the internet is a thing of the past! Why? Because everyone is using their phone or another form of GPS for directions. While, admittedly, the capabilities we have to get us from Point A to Point B are nothing short of amazing, using a device for directions can be dangerously distracting. Sure, these devices can even talk to you! But a quick glance at the screen is just enough time to make a costly mistake.
Sifting through your music device
Going through your music device can be just as dangerous as texting and driving. Your focus is no longer on the road, and instead, your visual, physical and cognitive focus is all about finding your next tune.
Checking social media
Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, just a few of the social media platforms that have taken over the internet — and apparently, they must be checked at all hours of the day! Thank goodness cell phones exist, right? But just because you have the convenience of checking that new “like” within a matter of seconds, it doesn’t mean you should.
Eating behind the wheel
You may be a pro at eating your burrito on the go, but eating means you’re not completely concentrated on the road — all of your senses are now zeroed in on the food in your hands. Everything from making sure you don’t spill, to the taste and smell are all distractions that could cause you to lose control.
Top 5 Ways to Avoid Distractions While Driving
There are easy ways to prevent distracted driving. Try making these five simple changes to have a safer driving experience.
1. Use a text-blocking app
There are many apps available that block texts while driving. A number of apps exist with different features, ranging from ones that completely block any incoming or outgoing texts while going a certain speed, to apps that will send a message saying you’re unavailable to respond to an incoming text. Here’s a list from DMV.org with great suggestions for apps to fight distracted driving.
2. Have a passenger navigate for you
If you’re driving with a passenger (of an appropriate age), hand the directions to them. Even a not-so-great navigator in the passenger seat is better than the person behind the wheel being responsible for both driving and navigating. If you’re driving by yourself, take the time to look at the directions before you set off. Then turn the volume up and let the AI lead the way.
3. Make music selection easy
Make multiple playlists that you can choose from before starting the car. If you really need to change it up, either pull over or wait for a red light. Set your presets to stations you already know you like. Hitting one button is better than cranking the dial until you find music you like.
4. Don’t text while driving
If you’re behind the wheel, just put the phone away. Social media can wait. It’s not going anywhere — that we can promise. Are the notifications too tempting? Turn them off! No comment or new tweet is worth the risk.
5. Eat at home or while stopped
If you’re in a rush and want to keep things moving, consider the hazards of driving while eating behind the wheel. Hopefully you can recognize that the risks outweigh the temptation and you can wait until you get to your destination to eat.
Other types of distracted driving
There are a few more forms of distracted driving that could cause an accident. If you’re in the driver’s seat, try to avoid these altogether:
- Taking selfies
- Talking on the phone
- Drinking coffee or another beverage
- Putting on makeup
- Using an app
- Loud music
How Does Distracted Driving Affect Insurance?
For starters, getting into an at-fault accident will almost always make your insurance premium go up, simply because your insurance company now deems you a higher-risk driver. Distracted driving is no exception. Even if you avoid an accident but you get a ticket for distracted driving, you’re susceptible to those increases in insurance.
Why? For starters, you may be getting a discount for having a clean driving record. But if you get a ticket, such as for texting while driving, you may no longer be eligible for that discount and you’ll notice an increase in your premium. Another reason your insurance might go up goes back to being a higher risk. If you’re guilty of distracted driving, an insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver (meaning you’re more likely to file a claim due to an accident) and they’ll set your premiums higher.
Many of the discounts that insurance companies give out revolve around rewarding drivers for having no claims and a good driving record in general. Don’t let distracted driving take away those perks!
Protect Yourself From Distracted Drivers on the Road
Avoiding distracting driving behaviors is a great way to be safe on the road, and car insurance is a great way to stay protected from the unexpected. With American Family you can customize your car coverage to meet your unique needs. Talk to your agent today to find the right coverage for you.
Have a teen driver you want to keep safe on the road? Use our Teen Safe Driver Hub to help them learn safe driving habits.