Distracted driving, simply put, is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from the road, and can greatly increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash. Ten percent of fatal crashes and 18 percent of injury crashes in 2013 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, according to the NHTSA.
Distracted driving has become an even bigger problem in recent years, as technology provides an increasing number of ways to become distracted behind the wheel. From social media notifications (which cause your phone to light up and buzz), to checking Google Maps, to the person in your passenger seat scrolling through Instagram causing you to wonder what you’re missing — there are plenty of things for a driver to be inclined to think about other than the road in this Digital Age.
At Eastern Insurance, we believe it’s of the utmost importance to rid yourself of distractions when you get behind the wheel. Not only do these distractions jeopardize the safety of your and your passengers, but at fault car accidents, even minor accidents, carry a financial penalty in terms of higher premiums. Listed below are some tips to follow to make your on-road experience safe.
First step: when you get into the car, turn off your phone or stash it somewhere where so can’t see it or think about it. Then:
1. Avoid Multitasking at the Wheel
While there is little you can do to control other people’s driving, there is plenty you can do to reduce your own distractions. Do not engage in any of the following while driving:
- Touching up makeup or hair
- Talking with other passengers to the extent that you aren’t watching the road
- Adjusting the radio or other audio devices
- Allowing your dog to sit on your lap
2. Stay Off the Phone
Smartphones are the most common driver distraction, and smartphone use results in many accidents every year. Driving while talking on the phone is dangerous because you cannot adequately divide your attention between the road and your conversation. New studies show that hands-free devices are just as distracting to use while driving. Remember: #ItCanWait. You can always call someone back after you’re done driving.
Even more dangerous than talking on the phone is texting. Texting while driving is comparable to drunk driving in terms of decreased reaction time and impairment. You should always refrain from texting, checking email, programming a mobile GPS device or using your phone in any way while driving. If necessary, silence or turn off your phone.
To combat the growing danger of phone use while driving, many states have enacted laws against texting and handheld cellphone use. Massachusetts’ “Safe Driving Law,” enacted in 2015, actually bans texting while driving.
3. Get Plenty of Rest
Driving any distance requires you to be physically and mentally well-rested. Fatigue plays a significant role in motor vehicle accidents and can be a major element in driving distractions. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep before you drive. Drink a caffeinated beverage like coffee or soda 30 minutes before you begin driving. If you become drowsy while driving, pull off the road and take a short nap or rest.
4. Know Where You Are Going
Before you set out for a new location, familiarize yourself with the route. If you need to check Google Maps or call for directions along the way, pull over before doing so.
5. Don’t Drink and Drive
Alcohol is the single greatest contributing factor to fatal motor vehicle accidents. Never drive while intoxicated. If you are attending an event that serves alcohol, make sure you have a Designated Driver to get you home. If necessary, program the number for a taxicab service into your phone or call for an Uber. Be aware that some prescription medications may also have debilitating effects on your driving.
6. Practice Defensive Driving
In addition to avoiding distractions, you should give your full attention to driving defensively. This can help minimize the risk of an auto accident. It’s important that you are aware of other drivers around you and make adjustments to your driving accordingly.
What’s the number one thing to think about every time you get behind the wheel? Everything else can wait. If you commute or drive into work, chances are you’re only behind the wheel for less than an hour. Whoever needs to contact you during that time can wait. Your life and the lives of those in your car are more important.
If you have any more questions about distracted driving, Massachusetts law, or how accidents can affect your car insurance policy, you can contact us at any time at: 800-333-7234 or by visiting our website.