Driving while under the influence poses an obvious danger, but another threat to safe driving exists: distracted driving. Distracted driving occurs when a driver’s attention is focused on something other than the roadway and traffic around him. Lack of attention removes the driver’s ability to recognize and react to dangerous situations, putting his and other lives in danger. Drivers can keep their attention on the road with a few simple changes in behavior such as cell phone use, deep breathing techniques, sleep patterns, and more.
Cell Phone Use
Ideally, you should not talk on mobile phones while in motion, and of course texting is completely verboten. The hectic pace of modern life makes this necessary sometimes. One alternative is to get a hands-free cell phone model and set it on speaker phone so calls can be answered without taking your eyes off the road. If you aren’t in a hurry, pull over to the side of the road, complete the call, and resume driving. Don’t have long or involved cell phone conversations when driving in traffic, even if it’s slow or close to home. Many accidents occur within 12 miles of a driver’s home.
Get at least eight hours of sleep the night before you have to drive, and if you feel drowsy on long trips, stop at the nearest rest stop for long enough to stretch your legs and wake up. Eat a filling, balanced meal an hour before setting out; this provides your body with energy and alertness. Avoid relying on caffeinated drinks to stay awake for longer. Caffeine only works for a short time, making you more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when the artificial reserves of energy are burned out. If you find yourself losing focus on the road, especially during long trips, focus your eyes on different points on the horizon or landmarks. This helps to keep your mind active and focused on the road rather than drifting into a hypnotic state.
Driving while angry, grief-stricken, or in a panic is likely to make you choose rash decisions. You don’t want to be thinking about the problems in your life, rather than what’s on the road. Employ deep breathing exercises to calm yourself before you set out. Inhale for four slow counts through your nose while touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Hold the breath for four counts and exhale for six counts through your mouth. Doing this counteracts some of the physical effects of stress, calming the mind as well. If possible, wait to drive until you aren’t as emotional.
Another cause of distracted driving, especially among people with new cars, is adjusting settings like the AC or music. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various adjustments and learn to make them without having to look at the dashboard or control panel. Also, avoid listening to music excessively loudly. Not only is it detrimental to your ability to hear what’s going on, it can also be a noise violation in some areas.
By remembering that your primary task when driving is to get from point A to point B safely, you can reduce the likelihood of getting into a distracted driving accident. Pay attention to the road and what’s going on around you before attending to other matters.