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.
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
Distracted driving 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.
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.
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 texting and driving. And, believe it or not, they also reported that texting and driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving.
It’s probably safe to assume you’ve used your phone a time or two while behind the wheel (if not, kudos to you!). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving during the day, even though texting while driving is banned in almost every state, while some states have a hand-held cell phone ban. Find out the texting-while-driving laws for your state to make sure you’re following the rules of the road.
Try this: 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.
Is it Illegal to Use Your Phone While Driving?
As of 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that there is a hand-held cell phone use ban in 14 states, with 47 states banning text messaging for all drivers. So while it would be great if the answer was 100% yes for this question, the truth is it depends on which state you live in. And, while it’s important to check out your state laws, it’s best to just stick with a “no phone use while driving” mentality.
Other Forms of Distracted Driving
Here’s a challenge: Write down all of things you do when driving that would be considered distracting. Be honest! Now, let’s see if they match up to this list. Make sure to check out the tips to remind yourself to stay focused behind the wheel:
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.
Try this: 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.
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.
Try this: 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.
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.
Try this: Just don’t. 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.
Eating Behind the Wheel
You may be a pro at eating your burrito on the go, but you 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.Try this: How about eating at home or forgo the drive-through and eat inside? 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.
Here are a few more forms of distracted driving that could cause an accident. To sum up our advice for the below? If you’re in the driver’s seat, avoid them altogether:
- Taking selfies
- Conversations with passengers
- Talking on the phone
- Drinking coffee or another beverage
- Putting on makeup
- Using an app
- Loud music
- Fill in the blank! What else do you do that could be considered distracting?
How Does Distracted Driving Affect Insurance?
For starters, you 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!
Become a Safer Driver with KnowYourDrive
Do you want a way to become a safer driver and earn a discount on your premium? American Family Insurance offers a usage-based insurance program called KnowYourDrive, which helps you become a safer, smarter driver.
Either you’ll get a device for your vehicle or you’ll simply use an app on your own smartphone — both track your driving habits, such as your speed, how quickly you accelerate and brake, etc., and that information gets sent back to us. We’ll use your results to calculate a discount based on how safe of a driver you are. The safer you drive, the more you can save!
To make it even better, you can track your driving habits on the affiliated smartphone app to find out areas you can improve on and work your way up to a bigger discount!
By being mindful of your choices when driving, you can help keep the roads a safer place. If you’re a passenger and see the driver on their phone or fiddling with things, ask them if you can help them out and remind them of the dangers of distracted driving. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait until you pull the car over.
Do you have more questions about how distracted driving affects your auto insurance? Your American Family Insurance agent is happy to get you in the know. In the meantime, happy driving and remember to put the phone down!