But considering distracted driving is a factor in eight out of 10 – about four million – car crashes in North America each year, it’s not a topic to be taken lightly.
Cellphone usage is one of the biggest contributing factors to distracted driving, whether it’s making a call, talking on the phone, cruising Facebook (yes, people do that while driving as hard as it is to believe) or texting.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) ranks talking on a cellphone the same as they would an impaired driver. So while there are people who wouldn’t even dream of taking so much as a sip of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, these same people don’t mind picking up their cellphone and talking about what groceries they need to pick up for supper while trying to navigate busy roads and highways.
A recent talk radio news program focused on this topic, with experts in defensive and safe driving weighing in on the topic of distracted driving and the impacts of drivers talking on cellphones. Their general consensus was to either turn the phone off altogether and keep it out of reach, or at least turn the ringer off and lay if facedown away from the driver. If you can’t do either of those, at least have the courtesy to pull to the side of the road when it is safe to do so to take or make a call or text.
Cellphones can’t take all of the bad rap for what contributes to distracted driving. There are many factors that can lead to driver distraction such as eating or drinking food while driving, passengers talking to the driver and taking their attention away from the road, loose objects moving around in a vehicle, changing radio stations, and pets who are not restrained in the vehicle.
The IBC provides some tips on how to prevent distractions from making you another crash statistic:
• Eat before driving so you won’t be tempted to juggle distracting snacks behind the wheel.
• Pull over and park before using a cellphone or other hand-held electronic device.
• Have a “driving” playlist on your MP3 player or phone and start it before you set the car in motion. That way, you won’t be fumbling to find a good song while driving.
• If something falls, leave it. Never reach for an object while driving, unless it is impeding your ability to control the car; in that case, pull over and deal with it.
• Deal with predictable distractions before hitting the road. Check the map, adjust the seat, the climate control and the radio, and familiarize yourself with the dashboard controls before taking the car out of park.
• If you are driving with pets, make sure they are safely secured and in the back seat.
• Put aside enough time to complete your grooming before you set out, so you won’t have to apply makeup, comb your hair or shave while driving.
• Listen to your GPS device; don’t look at it.
• Make all necessary wardrobe changes before you enter the car.
• If a situation can’t wait – the kids are acting up in the back seat or you need to refer to a map or take an emergency call – pull over somewhere safe to deal with it.
The Pilot also features an article this week on distracted driving on page 5A.
— Karen Wells