Unplug: Remove electronic distractions while driving
Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,450 lives in 2016. Cell phones, GPS systems, portable computers, CD players, video screens and other types of electronic devices have turned our vehicles into rolling offices and entertainment centers. Operating such devices creates distractions that draw attention away from the primary function of the driver, which is to operate the vehicle.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Voice recognition features, like voice to text, changing music, and navigating are even more distracting than talking on the phone. New technology in vehicles is causing us to become more distracted behind the wheel than ever before. Fifty-three percent of drivers believe if manufacturers put “infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology in vehicles, they must be safe. And, with some state laws focusing on handheld bans, many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device. But in fact, these technologies distract our brains even long after you’ve used them.
Effects of distractions
Studies show that any type of distraction increases driver reaction time and decreases driving performance. Both of these increase the likelihood of accidents. This occurs because multi-tasking places too many demands on the driver’s attention and leaves him or her with decreased ability to identify a problem and react to it in a safe and appropriate manner. Distractions also induce a state known as “inattention blindness,” in which drivers operate on autopilot without actually “seeing” the traffic and road conditions around them. Inattention blindness becomes highly dangerous when a distracted driver is confronted with unexpected events that require immediate action. Anticipating and reacting appropriately to surprises requires thought, planning, and full attention.
Truths About cell phone/texting distracted driving
Multitasking is a myth. Our brains cannot process two mentally demanding tasks at once.
- The area of our brain that processes moving images decreases by one-third when talking/texting on the phone.
- Cell phone users are 4x more likely to be involved in a crash.
- Drivers talking on cell phones miss seeing half of what is around them including red lights, stop signs, and stopped traffic.
- There is no benefit to hands-free use.
- Cell phone use is more distracting than listening to the radio or talking to passengers.
- No cell phone use – calls, texts, social media, or apps – is worth a life.
- SAFETY IS #1!!
" Anticipating and reacting appropriately to surprises requires thought, planning, and full attention.
Common sense behavior is required to maintain safe driving practices. The following should be considered:
- Restrict use of electronic devices to safe times. Make every effort to park safely before talking on the phone or using other equipment. Schedule your calls/texts when you know you will be safely parked;
- Keep your phone or other equipment away while driving. The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can pertain to phones;
- Do not reach for devices to ‘just check them’. Taking your eyes off the road or leaning over in the seat to reach for a device puts you at greater risk for an accident;
- Advise loved ones and co-workers that you will be driving and will be unable to answer phones or respond to text messages.
- Voice mail is designed to answer the phone when you cannot—let it do its job;
- Emotional, stressful, or complicated business conversations can lead to distracted and unsafe driving. Following these types of calls, take a few moments to calm down and clear your thoughts before driving. Stop, take a deep breath, and focus on driving not the phone conversation;
- Do not read while driving, or enter numbers and coordinates into electronic devices;
- Videogames and entertainment systems are for the use of passengers only. Such devices should be located to the rear of the driver and kept at a volume that is not distracting;
- The safety of the driver, the passengers in the vehicle, and the other drivers on the road must take precedence. Your first responsibility is to pay attention to your safe driving duties. Driving should be the sole focus when you are behind the wheel.
Let’s be safe out there!
With more than 20 years of experience providing risk control services within casualty insurance lines, Chris O’Neill is a risk control associate with AXA XL’s environmental insurance team. He can be reached at Christopher.ONeill@axaxl.com.