Distracted driving isn’t just dangerous; it’s deadly. According to the NHTSA (National Transportation Traffic Safety Administration), in 2015 alone more than 3,477 lives were lost due to distracted drivers. Unfortunately, it’s a trend that continues to grow each year.
Ok, what is distracted driving?
The first image that comes to mind is probably that of a driver looking at a text message or a smartphone screen while he or she is driving. But there are actually three main types of distracted driving – visual, where you take your eyes off the road; manual, where you take your hands off the wheel; and a cognitive type of distraction, where your mind simply isn’t paying attention to driving because you’re thinking about something else.
Just to provide some perspective, when you’re driving at 55 mph and you take your eyes off the road for a minimum of just five seconds, you’re driving fast enough to cover the length of a football field. And a lot of damage can happen in 100 yards.
Here’s something else to consider: talking on a hands-free cell phone still poses the same risk to the driver as having a blood alcohol level of .08. That’s using a hands-free device!
What can you do to prevent distracted driving?
The NHTSA is running a variety of public service announcements about the dangers of texting and using smartphones while driving. They are also putting money behind local campaigns on regular and social media. They’ve even created “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” that runs in April.
Employers are jumping on the bandwagon by encouraging their employees and commercial van drivers to commit to distraction-free driving, as well as setting up company policies prohibiting distracted driving. But there are many things we can all do to reduce distracted driving on our own.
Here are those 7 tips:
- The best place to start: enact a policy that prohibits the use of all devices while driving – no exceptions! That means tablets, smartphones, and portable computers – anything that could make a driver take his or her eyes off the road. There are some devices available that monitor driver activity, but education and trust go a long way in getting employees to comply.
And if GPS helps with fleet van deliveries or client stops, program it before the ignition is turned on. Never do it while driving!
- How many times have you seen women putting on makeup or guys using an electric shaver while driving? Too many times! Do the grooming at the office or at home – before you get in the vehicle and push the ignition button.
- To prevent cognitive distracted driving, get and stay organized. This will help to prevent multitasking, which is a big contributor to distracted driving. Make sure your tank is topped off, and if you’re driving on a toll road, have the money in a handy place.
- If you’re driving with other passengers or work crew in a commercial van upfit, delegate some of the work. They could do the GPS directions, manage the radio or CD player, and let you concentrate 100% on driving – and nothing else.
- To help you prevent from becoming distracted, manage your conversations. Don’t get into a deep discussion or bring up an emotional topic while driving. Keep it conversational, benign, and you’ll drive a lot safer.
- If you’re using a smartphone for its GPS feature, make sure you have a phone that disables other functions once you enable GPS. You could also download an app that disables texting and sends out a programmed message that informs texters or callers that you’re busy driving.
- Finally, use the time in your vehicle to relax. Take in the scenery, but always be aware of the traffic and your surroundings. Plan your exit strategy, merge over early, and enjoy the ride!
That’s all it takes. Simple steps you can take to prevent distracted driving that can lead to tragedy. The sooner you start, the safer you’ll be driving commercial vehicles.