01 May How to Tell if You Are a Distracted Driver
Distracted driving poses a risk to you, your passengers, and everyone else around you. Remaining focused throughout your entire shift is essential to being both effective and safe while on the road.
Do you ever change the radio station or eat while you’re driving? Do you ever input an address on your vehicle’s GPS system when behind the wheel? Do you ever get less than seven hours of sleep before a day on the road? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a distracted driver.
In today’s technologically laden world there are endless distractions that will keep your eyes and mind off the road if you let them. Among the most common are:
- Smart phones: An increasing number of fleets have adopted no cellphone-while-driving policies. And there are 13 U.S. states that have completely banned hand-held cellphones for all drivers. But even hands-free devices can pose risks, because your focus is taken away from driving. Smart phones can be especially distracting, with temptations ranging from checking an e-mail to texting to browsing a website. Regardless of the law in your state or rules of your fleet, phones should not be used while driving. In fact, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by as much as 33% when talking on a phone, and drivers may miss up to 50% of their surroundings when talking on any kind of cell phone, according to a study from the National Safety Council. Your best bet is to avoid phone use completely while behind the wheel.
- Loud music: While listening to music while driving is almost a given, drivers who listen to excessively loud music are twice as likely to get into an accident. Listening to music can certainly help keep a driver’s mind active and engaged while driving, but listening to music at a reasonable sound level is crucial in significantly reducing potential distractions. And avoid changing the radio station or adjusting your MP3 player while driving. Change the station only when you’re stopped, and set up a playlist on your MP3 (or streaming service) that will see you through the day while you’re on the road.
- Eating: Driving and eating at the same time may seem harmless, but it can actually increase your crash risk by 70%, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is just as dangerous as using a cell phone while driving. As with using a cell-phone while driving, don’t eat and drive. If you need a meal or a snack, use it as an opportunity to take a break.
- Drowsy Driving: While not a distraction per se, drowsy driving is increasingly being recognized as a serious risk factor. As with cell-phone use and eating and driving, drowsy driving results in an inability to focus. According to research by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who get only five to six hours of sleep a night almost double their risk for getting into an accident. Even worse, sleeping only four to five hours of sleep increases crash risk by 4.3 times, and getting less than four hours of sleep results in a whopping 11.5 times greater crash risk than sleeping the recommended minimum of seven hours.
Take a Break: The bottom line is that multitasking while driving—weather it is something as seemingly innocent as changing a radio station to using a cell phone—is distracted driving. But there is a simple way to avoid these dangerous, unsafe behaviors: pull over.
Fleets that have instituted cell-phone bans expect sales reps and service technicians to make calls or respond to e-mails while they are safely parked and/or away from their vehicles. GPS and radios should be programmed prior to getting on the road, and meals should be taken during scheduled break times out of the vehicle. As a driver, your goal is to get to your next destination safely. Remaining focused on the road is the best way to do so.