HKQ Kids

Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel

When we do something everyday, it makes sense that we eventually get comfortable doing it. There is such a thing as too comfortable, though. The daily commute to and from school or work probably makes it easy to forget, but driving is an inherently dangerous activity. Accidents are bound to happen even when all parties involved are focused on the task at hand. However, we can take steps to lessen this likelihood by avoiding distractions while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that about 25% of car-related fatalities are caused by distracted driving, and accidents involving teenagers are nearly 60% of the time due to distracted driving. These numbers do not need to be this high. It only takes a few seconds for a text message or an email to turn into a tragedy. Make sure your young drivers know what constitutes as a distraction while driving, and remind them to keep their attention on the road.

One of the main culprits in cases of distracted driving is, unsurprisingly, the cell phone. This is what receives the bulk of focus in anti-distracted driving ads, and rightfully so; the NHTSA estimates that at any given time, approximately 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones during their daily transit. This results in upwards of 1.6 million crashes every year. Plain and simple, you are not a good enough multitasker to check your phone or respond to a message while driving. If the temptation is too strong, there are restrictions you can enact for yourself. Any newer phone will have the option to turn on Do Not Disturb mode in your phone’s settings for when you’re driving. All incoming notifications are muted, and anyone trying to text you will receive a message that you’re currently driving. If there’s truly an emergency, they’ll still be able to reach you; on iPhones, for example, texting “urgent” will allow them to contact you normally.

Of course, using your phone while driving isn’t just dangerous for you and others: it’s also illegal. In Pennsylvania, using a phone or any other electronic device to read/send messages while operating a moving vehicle can get you pulled over and fined.

You should also note that just because your device of choice might be hands-off, that doesn’t mean it’s distraction-free. Taking a phone call, changing your music, or using an app for directions without the use of your hands can still mentally divert your attention away from the road. Even if such functions are built into your car, this doesn’t automatically mean they’re safe to use while you’re in motion. If you really need to attend to something that takes up your focus while driving, it’s best to pull over and deal with it while you’re in park.

While phones are the obvious factor here, they’re not the only sources of distracted driving. A large amount of accidents occur due to eating/drinking while driving. In fact, the NHTSA finds that people who eat while driving are 80% more likely to get into an accident.

Finally, here’s a list of a few more things to avoid while driving and some tips to keep distractions to a minimum:

Conversation; younger drivers especially are more easily distracted by talking. Obviously, the rowdier it gets, the more likely the driver loses focus. Make sure those in the passenger and back seats aren’t distracting the driver.
Makeup, fixing hair, etc. Be late and finish up at home, don’t save it for your commute. Your rear-view mirror would be bigger if it were meant for grooming.
Young children and pets should be safely secured before your drive begins. You can read more about car seat safety here: http://www.hkqkids.org/editorials/041919-Car-Seat-Safety/. If the kids in the back need something from you or are going to war with each other, find a safe spot to pull over to do diplomacy.
Resist the urge to rubberneck. Looking on at someone else’s accident or encounter with the police just makes you all the more likely to be involved in either.
Deal with any dashboard settings before or after driving, not during. This goes for your mirrors, GPS, etc. as well.

Remember, driving is an activity that requires 100% of your attention. Be an alert and defensive driver. Assume everyone around you doesn’t care about anything mentioned above. Whether you’re on a cross country road trip or going down the street to the gas station, drive like your life depends on it, because it truly does.

For additional safety tips go to HKQKids.org, find us on Facebook and Instagram.