Saturday, 16 July 2011

5 Tips to Prevent Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious problem in Canada and the United States. Some estimates suggest that 25-30% of all accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Last year the Canadian Automobile Association listed distracted drivers as the greatest threat to safety on the road. While it may seem innocent enough to make a quick text on the phone while periodically looking up, the fact is that your reaction time will be slower and you may miss a pedestrian crossing the road or a car slowing down ahead of you. To ensure that you don't harm someone or yourself, here are five quick suggestions for how to keep your mind focused on the road.

1. Make a few playlists
For those of us who have long work commutes, there's nothing better than a punchy playlist to wake you up in the morning and a set of soothing songs to take you home. While it is nice to have your iPod next to you as you DJ your own private session, keep in mind that those few moments looking down could coincide with someone crossing the road or a light turning yellow. Do yourself a favour and create a playlist ahead of time, or even just throw your iPod on shuffle. Toss it on before you leave and don't look at it again -- go with the flow of the music; if you're feeling a different song, remember that you just don't have the right to look at the road when you're supposed to be driving. You have an obligation to those around you on the road to stay focused.

2. Eat before you drive
It's hard for many of us to find time in the morning to eat breakfast. It's easy enough to barter our most important meal for a few extra minutes of delicious sleep, but skipping breakfast --or trying to gobble it down in the car-- is a recipe for disaster. You simply cannot give your entire attention to the road while trying to unwrap a granola bar or peel an orange while driving. Take a few extra minutes in the morning to eat breakfast; it will not only stop you from being distracted on the road, it's also great for your health!

3. Know your trip
When driving somewhere new, know the trip ahead of time. Clumsily trying to enter the destination into your smartphone is not an option; your eyes won't be on the road where they should be. Memorize the route (yes, that's right, use your memory!) or programme a GPS unit ahead of time. Doing it as you drive is just plain irresponsible.

4. Get ready before you leave
The reality is that most people are busier than they should be. This leads people to do things while driving that they would normally do at home, just to save some time. Sometimes this includes doing one's hair or makeup! Do yourself and everyone else a favour: keep your eyes on the road and get yourself together before you get into your car.

5. When in doubt, pull over 
If at any point you feel the need to send a text, do your hair, eat a breakfast burrito, or wiki something that's nagging you, be sure to pull over to the side of the road. Ultimately, it's not your place to take risks when you're sharing the road with others. It's your responsibility to be as focused on the road as is possible.