It’s a simple question: What are you doing while you’re driving? In driver’s ed, we learn that our hands should be at 9 and 3, to check our blind spots and to avoid highway hypnosis. But are your eyes always on the road? Is your mind? Distracted driving runs the gamut of the senses, including anything from visual (i.e., looking at something other than the road), auditory (i.e., hearing something not related to driving), manual (i.e., manipulating something other than the wheel) or cognitive (i.e., thinking about something other than driving).
It’s sometimes difficult to be 100 percent focused on the road 100 percent of the time. Enjoying your morning cup of coffee, changing the radio station or talking with a passenger all qualify as driving distractions. While these may be small distractions, others may be more dangerous.
Using cell phones in the car—for talking or texting—is a huge distraction for drivers and contributes significantly to the likelihood of an accident: Did you know that at least one driver was reported to have been distracted in 15 to 30 percent of car crashes? While many new cars have hands-free technology, technology for texting isn’t quite as advanced. Texting while driving involves simultaneous manual, visual and cognitive distractions, and sending or receiving a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds; going at a moderate 50 mph speed, your car has covered the length of a football field without your attention. This behavior endangers you and your passengers, as well as others with whom you share the road.
Moreover, texting while driving risks traffic violations—drivers caught texting will be fined a minimum of $100. And, if you cause an accident as a result of your distracted driving, you may be sued for negligence.
So how can you avoid texting while driving? If hearing that notification is simply too tempting, turn off your phone while you’re in the car, set it to silent or put it in a bag in the back seat. If you have a passenger in the car, have him or her read your incoming texts, while you dictate a response. If a text message can’t wait until you reach your destination, use designated rest stops or pull-offs to take a short break to respond to your messages. Being cautious is always a good policy!
And be sure to speak with your insurance agent about any incentives to avoid distracted driving—many auto-insurance carriers offer discounts for safe driving.