Avoid distracted driving
Distracted driving is a growing problem both in South Africa and around the world. Distracted driving dramatically increases the chances of serious or fatal accidents occurring and should be avoided at all costs. This article offers advice on how to practice safe driving techniques
and how to avoid distracted driving.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving can be defined as follows:
- Any activity or action that takes the driver's attention away from the task of driving.
What activities or actions constitute distracted driving?
There are many activities or actions that can distract a driver from the primary task of driving, these include:
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Any outside person, object, event, animal, crash scene, road construction etc
- Adjusting a radio, cassette, CD player, I-pod or GPS device
- Other passengers in the vehicle
- Any moving object in the vehicle whether it be a pet, insect or an object falling off a seat
- Reaching for and lighting a cigarette, smoking or dropping a cigarette
- Dialling, talking, listening, texting or reaching for a cell phone
- Reaching for any other object in the vehicle including sunglasses, purse, handbag or water bottle
- Using any device attached to the vehicle including mirrors, lights and seatbelts
- Medical issues, looking at a map or road sign, fatigue
- General inattentiveness
Tip: Cell phones pose the biggest threat to drivers and passengers. NEVER use your cell phone while driving.
How can I avoid distracted driving?
Although avoiding all distractions at all times while driving is not possible, being aware of distractions and mitigating them when they arise is certainly a doable task for any driver. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle should focus all their attention to the task of driving at all times and take the necessary action to avoid being distracted, here is what you can do to avoid distractions while driving:
- Tend to all calls and messages on your cell phone before you begin driving. Switch your cell phone off to avoid any cell phone distraction while driving or simply allow your voicemail to pick up any incoming calls. Do not send text messages while driving. If you need to answer a phone call or send a message, rather pull safely off the road to do so.
- Only use a voice activated hands-free kit if possible. Remember, a hands-free kit does not reduce distraction while driving. Talking while driving is a distraction and turning your cell phone off while driving is a sure way to prevent cell phone related distracted driving.
- Do not eat or drink while driving. Eat and drink before or after driving.
- Children and friends can be a distraction while driving. If your children are restless while driving, give them appropriate entertainment like toys or books to keep them occupied while you drive. If you have to, pull safely off the road to deal with your children appropriately. Make sure that friends and children refrain from horseplay in the car while you drive.
- Make sure your pets are properly secured while driving. This can be done using a pet harness, pet carrier or a portable kennel. Never let your pets sit in your lap while you drive.
- Pre-set your radio and load your CD player before embarking on a journey. This will reduce distraction while you drive. Avoid playing loud music while driving and keep the volume level reasonable.
- Avoid setting and using navigation devices while driving. Pre-set your GPS or in-car navigation system before you begin driving. The same applies for any other adjustment you need to make such as seat and mirror adjustments. If you have to, rather ask a passenger to assist you or alternatively pull safely off the road to make any adjustments.
- Avoid staring at external events or objects while driving, keep focused on the task of reaching your destination safely.
- Educate your teenage driver about the risks associated with distracted driving.
- Avoid reading maps, books or newspapers while driving.
- Avoid grooming such as hair grooming or applying makeup while driving.
Tip: Avoid any action or activity that will distract you from the task of driving. Be conscious and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Distracted driving can and does put innocent lives at risk on a daily basis. Practice driving without distractions by following the suggestions in this article and educate friends and family about the risks of distracted driving.