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7 Ways to Avoid Distracted Driving

See also: Tips to Fight Road Rage

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2016.

And like most statistics, it might be tough to connect with this one. After all, it’s just another set of numbers. But when you make it personal, you realize that these numbers need to change.

Think about each of those 3,450 people as an individual. These were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children. And if you've ever been guilty of distracted driving, this could have been you.

We’ve all done things we shouldn’t. But now is a good time to recognize the dangers of distracted driving and change our ways.

Here are 7 things you can do today to avoid distracted driving.

Never Drive While Drowsy or Tired

Have you ever fallen asleep behind the wheel? If so, you’re not alone.

Data from the American Sleep Foundation tells us that about 37% of drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. You probably already know that drowsy driving is dangerous.

But when you're feeling tired, it's not just the actual act of sleep that's a danger. When you're tired, your reactions aren't as sharp, and you're more likely to get distracted – if even from your own thoughts.

Now, there are times when you can’t avoid driving while drowsy. But you can recognize moments like these and avoid them in the future.
For example, if you’re always drowsy while driving to work in the morning, you may need to get to sleep earlier each night.

Avoid texting and driving

It takes the average person 5 seconds to type out a text message, and in that time, anything could happen. And as we’ve all seen from horror stories on the news, anything often does happen.

In five seconds, a car could cut you off unexpectedly. And before you know it, you’re slamming on your brakes about two seconds too late. And you’ve crashed.

It may feel like the text is worthwhile. You're in the midst of a heated argument, and you want to shoot back a fiery response while it's still fresh in your mind. Or you're late to work and want to send a quick text to your boss.

But ask yourself this: Are either of those texts worth a life?

In every case, the answer is no. The only situation that might give you pause is where your timely text will save a life. And if you really think about it, these situations are extremely rare. You’re not going to save anyone’s life by responding to your crush or your boss. So let go of texting and driving.

If you have a newer car, you probably have the functionality to auto-respond to texts while you're driving.

Don’t use your phone for GPS navigation

Oftentimes, your phone is the best GPS navigation around. This is because there’s so much data on apps like Waze and Google Maps that they are the maps that are most likely to be accurate.

If you have a newer car, you might have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and these apps give you the ability to control your phone’s navigation through your touchscreen display.

The danger of using your phone is multifaceted. For one, you’re more likely to get distracted by any notifications you may see while checking the directions. But also, your phone is almost never in a great spot for a quick glance. If you have a phone holder on your dash, this is the best case scenario, but it’s still not ideal.

Most of us struggle to find the phone to check the directions, and this is a major distraction.

If you don’t have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, definitely get (and use) a dashboard phone holder that can keep your phone at the right level for viewing.

Pull over to grab things out of reach

Have you ever reached for something on the passenger side of your vehicle and actually swerved in the road?

This is the driving equivalent to stumbling over your own feet, but it's a lot more dangerous. When you stumble over your own feet, you don't quite want to admit you've faltered, and you want to get back on track right away. No one saw that, right?

This is how the scenario plays out when all goes well. But there are times when swerving can be severe and get you into an accident.

If you have to reach over for something that would cause you to take your eyes off the road, don’t. Pull over first. The same is true when you’re tending to your kids or pets in the back seat.

Resolve to get ready before or after driving

Have you ever put on your makeup while driving? Or if you don’t wear makeup, maybe you’re brushing your hair or putting on your dress shirt while driving. We see you.

But unfortunately, this kind of behavior is probably more dangerous than you realize. Think about what could happen when you put on mascara in the car. Even a minor fender bender could lead to serious eye damage. But whenever you take your focus off the road, you increase your risk of getting into a car accident.

Store loose gear

Imagine you’re on a road trip and you have a water bottle rolling around your car floor.

If you’re like most of us, you probably don’t have to imagine. These things happen.

But now, imagine that water bottle rolls under your brake pedal. That’s a whole other story, and it’s one that could have a devastating end. Store anything that’s loose in your car that could be a distraction.

Silence notifications and stow your phone

Mobile phones are one of the biggest distractions for drivers today. And if this is a problem for you too, mitigate the issue by putting your phone on silent and storing it in your glove compartment. Out of sight, out of mind.

The more you get used to driving without your phone, the easier it will become.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

This two-part guide is an easy-to-read summary of the essential skills you need for a healthy mind and body.

The first eBook, Looking After Yourself, covers some of our most popular content and will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.

The second eBook, Living Well, Living Ethically, considers how you can live your best life all the time. It helps you to answer the question: how can I avoid having too many regrets about my life?

Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents today. And we all have to do our part to diminish the problem. What’s your biggest distraction while driving?

About the Author

Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict and alcoholic who's been clean and sober for over 6 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge.

In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.