It is important to stay alert at all times – and to act with extreme caution when you climb behind the steering wheel of a vehicle. Not only do you as a driver have to avoid distractions – but your passengers have to ensure that they are not the cause of your distractions.
Can you answer yes to the following three questions?
- Are you always prepared to avoid a car swerving in front of you?
- Can you brake in time for a pedestrian who suddenly steps into your path?
- Can you steer safely clear of debris falling from a truck?
If you cannot say yes to all three at any given time, you’re distracted. So here’s what you can do to minimise the distractions and stay safe.
|As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.|
15 tips to avoid distractions on the road
- Focus fully on driving. Don’t let anything divert your attention. Actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
- Make adjustments before you get underway with your journey. Address vehicle systems such as your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
- Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
- Secure children and pets before starting your trip. If they need your attention, pull off to the side of the road to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Put aside your electronic distractions. Don’t use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
- If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
- If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off to the side of the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.
- If you are drowsy, pull off to the side of the road. Drowsiness increases the risk of a crash by nearly four times. If you feel tired, get off the road; don't try to get home faster.
- You should limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car. Driving with friends can create a dangerous driving environment because novice drivers are focused on their friends rather than the road.
- Do your multi-tasking outside the car. Everyone spends a lot of time in their vehicles, and it may seem like the perfect time to get little things done: calling friends, searching for good music, maybe even text messaging. Don't do it. Focus on the road and the drivers around you. Get everything settled before you start driving.
- Remember, sharing is caring. On long-haul trips, share the driving load. After a few hours on the road our concentration begins to flag and exhaustion takes its toll, giving a completely avoidable meaning to the expression ‘dead tired’.
- Let your passengers do some of the work. That’s what they’re there for. You’re the driver – your job is to drive the car and get everyone there without crashing. If you have other people in the car, let them do some of the other work. Their hands are free, so let them run the GPS, find just the right song on the radio, or send a text for you. It’ll give them something productive to do and take some distracting tasks off of your plate.
- Save the serious discussions for later. Okay, so it’s easier said than done, but it’s important not to lose yourself in stressful thoughts or serious conversations when you’re on the road. Driving is the task at hand, so save that ‘We need to talk’ moment for later. Whatever it is, it’s not worth risking your life or the lives of others over.