People tend to demonize motorists who get into accidents while being distracted because there is a tendency to associate distractions with things like texting or playing around on social media. However, distracted driving accidents are more-likely to be caused by more-benign things that happen during the course of the average, ordinary family day trip. In fact, the majority of daytime accidents that occur during the summer are related to these run-of-the-mill distractions, and many lead to serious injuries and even fatalities.
We’re All Guilty
We’ve all been there- Trying to focus on driving while passengers are talking, arguing, screaming, giving us directions or doing something that takes our attention from the road. We make last-minute lane changes, have to re-calibrate our GPS devices after being directed to wrong places, answer phone calls or ask businesses or people we’re meeting up with for directions or pull over in dangerous places to get our bearings.
All of these distractions are normal, run-of-the-mill things that are just par for the course whenever we hit the road with family and friends. However, they can be just as dangerous as some of the stunts that reckless motorists who deserve our ire and judgment pull off as well. Consequently, It’s important that we’re mindful of these things before we hit the road so that we can come up with a plan to deal with them safely when they occur.
There are a lot of simple things that we can do to alleviate these risks long before we load up our crossovers, trucks and SUVs and head out. The first is to know your route. Map it. Plan it. Think of parking, one way streets, construction and any alternates that may be less-congested. Don’t think twice about using your GPS, but don’t use it as a replacement to having a mental map of the route that you’re going to take, and consider writing down directions so you can refer to them as you drive.
Another simple way to reduce the chances of being peppered with advice from passenger and back-seat drivers is to delegate roles before heading out. Have one person in the vehicle navigate or field phone calls. If you’re traveling in a convoy, make sure that the lead vehicle knows where they’re going, and be familiar with the route even if you’re in the middle or end of the pack. This will help to reduce the chances of becoming disoriented and distracted if you get separated along the way. Assigning roles will also limit chatter and arguments that often occur at the worst-possible time and free up the driver to focus on that single task.
Silence is Golden
Turn down the radio, have passengers wear headphones when watching movies or playing games, and have everyone become silent when you’re approaching points that will require your undivided attention to navigate safely. In the same way that most people study better when distracting noises are silenced, drivers can also devote more of their senses to getting to the destination in one piece. Never underestimate the power of silence when it comes to boosting our ability to concentrate while driving.
These are just a couple of examples of common-sense things that we can all do to make getting to our summertime day trip destinations safely. Take some time to think of how to make them work for you, and share any tips that you may have so we can all be safer behind the wheel as we head out on our mini-adventures.