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On The Road

How to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents

Sending a text, eating your burrito, applying makeup — what do all of these tasks have in common?

They’re all everyday examples of distracted driving.

As a driver, it’s your responsibility to focus on the road 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.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is when the driver is doing something that takes their attention away from the task of driving. Any time your eyes and/or mind are taken away from the road, you’re technically distracted, which means an increase in the risk of an accident.

Not all driving distractions are created equal. As you can imagine, some forms of distraction aren’t as dangerous as others. For example, hands-free telephone conversations — although not recommended — isn’t as deadly as other modes of conversation while driving.

The Deadliest Driving Distraction: Texting and Driving

It should come as no surprise to you that texting is the most common distraction while driving as well as the most dangerous. It’s so deadly in fact, that it gets its very own section.

It’s easy for us all to see the dangers of texting while driving, but even with that knowledge, so many of us fall into the temptation of sending off a fast text message while behind the wheel. But even a quick text can have horrible consequences.

Just think, when you look at your phone, your focus is on the screen, not the road; one hand is off the wheel to hold your device, and your mind drifts to the message instead of the task at hand: driving safely.

Why texting is distracting

To put it into perspective, if you’re traveling at 55 MPH and you take your eyes off the road and onto your phone, you’ve traveled about 100 yards – the length of a football field! That’s quite a distance to cover driving “blind.”

The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by a distracted driver who was texting. They also reported that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.

Let these driving facts be a wake-up call to the extreme dangers of texting while driving.

Is it Illegal to Use Your Phone While Driving?

The truth is that 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 ensure you’re following the rules of the road in your state.

It’s always important to know our state laws, and in your state there may very well be no law preventing you from texting while driving. However, for your safety as well as those in your car, and for anyone else sharing the roads with you, it’s best to stick with a firm “no phone use while driving” mentality.

Types of Distracted Driving

The first step to preventing distracted driving is understanding what it is. In a nutshell, anything that occupies your attention while driving is a distraction. Here are a few notable distractors that should be eliminated while behind the wheel.

Checking your GPS

When it comes to directions, we’ve come a long way from the world of fold-up maps. Today, everyone has a built-in navigation system in the palm of their hands: the smartphone. The only problem is that just one quick glance at your phone’s screen is all it takes for a costly mistake behind the wheel.

Your best bet is to leave your phone in your pocket or purse when driving. But if you must use your phone for directions, enable the voice feature so that you don’t have to look at the screen for every turn.

Sifting through your music device

Trying to find the right song for your road trip is just as dangerous as texting and driving. Your best bet is to pick a playlist prior to getting into your vehicle. Or listen to the radio. The key here is to keep your eyes on the road and not on your music device.

Checking social media

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, you name it – all of them bide for our constant attention. Don’t fall prey to this when you’re driving. That post, tweet, or message can wait. Avoid checking social media when behind the wheel.

Eating behind the wheel

You may be a pro at eating your burrito on the go, but ingesting your lunch while driving is a big no-no. All it takes is one wayward waffle fry to take your attention from the road to your lap. And it’s not just the mess that distracts; it’s the smell, taste, you name it – that makes eating one of the most distracting things you can do while driving.

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

Top 5 Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

There are easy ways to prevent distracted driving. Try using making these five simple changes distracted driving safety tips to have a safer driving experience.

Use a text-blocking app

There are many apps available that block texts while driving. Several 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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 does distracted driving increase insurance? 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.

The Insurance Information Institute claims driving while interacting with a mobile device can increase the odds of a crash by as much as 3.5 times, compared to the risks that a sober, alert and attentive driver faces. Teens are more susceptible to collisions, even when speaking hands-free on a mobile phone. Let’s explore the many ways you can help prevent distracted driving accidents.

Ways to Avoid Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that by eliminating distractions, and giving your full attention to driving, you’ll have quicker reflexes for unexpected events that could otherwise cause accidents. Try enacting these simple changes to drive smarter and safer:

Reserve your phone for emergency use

Keep your phone easily accessible — but do your best to limit its use. If something comes up, pull off the road when it’s safe to do so, and use the phone only when absolutely necessary. Even hands-free use can limit your reaction time.

Limit the number of passengers in your car

Many states have laws on the books that only allow a few passengers in the car when new drivers are behind the wheel. Driving with friends can create distractions which can lead to accidents.

Practice defensive driving

One great way to take on new and smarter driving habits is to review defensive driving techniques to focus on the road. Reach out to your agent to learn about our car insurance discounts for safe and defensive drivers.

Avoid eating when driving

Grabbing lunch on the go might seem efficient, but it’s not smart to eat meals when driving. Unexpected spills can upset your driving rhythm and pull attention away from driving.

Don’t check social media when 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.

Limit the level of activity in the cab

Although it can be fun to goof with your friends while you’re out having fun, new drivers may find themselves deeply engaged in conversation — and a little too checked out behind the wheel. And be sure to store loose gear out of the way where it’s easily accessible.

Pull off the road if you’re sleepy

A drowsy driver is much more likely to crash versus a well-rested driver. Do your best to remain sharp and attentive — find a safe area to rest and recharge before hitting the road again.

Enroll in KnowYourDrive®

Our safe driving app does a lot to help you form good driving habits that keep you and everyone in your car safer. With KnowYourDrive®, you’ll get scored on your safe driving performance — and you’ll receive a 10 percent discount on your auto coverage just for signing up. Our safest drivers save as much as 17 to 20 percent!*

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

*Program discounts will vary based on driving behavior. The KnowYourDrive discount applies only to the following variable coverages, which are typical for most auto policies: bodily injury liability, property damage liability, collision and comprehensive, medical expense, underinsured and uninsured and personal injury protection. Additionally, the discount does not apply to fixed fees that are part of your policy.


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Related Topics: Car Safety , Teen Drivers , Safe Driving