Don't Leave Traffic Safety to Luck

Safe driving is the result of good habits, not good fortune.

November 18, 2019

Some break the wishbone for good luck as part of an annual Thanksgiving ritual. My hope is that you will not leave traffic safety to luck as your employees head out for a long holiday weekend. At least 400 roadway deaths are expected over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Let’s focus on six key questions related to distracted driving and keep travelers focused on the road ahead. Use this Q and A as a safety tool to reinforce safe driving habits, and help everyone celebrate safely.

How big of a problem is distraction on our roadways?
Every day, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes. That’s more than 3,000 deaths every year. Unfortunately, distracted driving is underreported, and no breathalyzer-like test exists for cell phone use behind the wheel.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about distracted driving?
People cling to the “not-me” mentality. They think they can make a call while driving and not be distracted because that crash, well, it’s not going to happen to me. Multitasking is a myth. The brain cannot handle two thinking tasks at once. Rather, your brain quickly toggles back-and-forth from one thinking task to another. Talking on a cell phone and driving are both thinking tasks. In the time it takes to toggle from one to the other, you could end up in a crash. People are unaware of distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features. Research indicates drivers using handheld and hands-free phones only see about 50% off all the information in their driving environment. This phenomenon is called “inattention blindness.” Think of it as driving blindfolded. Who does that?

What are some effective methods we can use to reduce electronic distractions?

  • Education and awareness: Give 100% of your attention to driving 100% of the time
  • Use your phone settings: Select “do not disturb” before you take the wheel, set your GPS system before departing
  • Technology: Many apps out there can help drivers stay focused on driving and prevent distracted-driving crashes

Beyond cell phones, what are some other things that drivers might not realize are dangerous?
Anything that affects your ability to focus on the drive is an impairment. It can be distraction, alcohol or drug impairment and fatigue. Personal distractions can result from eating, drinking and personal grooming. Cognitive distractions can result from cell phone use and/or daydreaming. Fatigue and alcohol as well as drug impairment play a huge role in road safety as well. Trust your gut, not your ego – if you feel tired, or if you’ve been out celebrating, it’s not the best time to drive.

How can we change driver behavior and make distracted driving socially unacceptable?
Here, one question begs another: When will distracted driving be viewed with the same type of social stigma that now is attached to smoking in public places? Drivers need to learn and understand that while today’s vehicle technologies are at their fingertips, they can pose risks to safety. And drivers need to make use of technology in ways that won’t jeopardize their own safety or the safety of others around them.

What resources and thoughts should you take away from this learning exercise?
Employers can lead in ensuring safe driving is the norm. Get the Safe Driving Kit, check out our driver safety training options, and Texas employers have a myriad of free resources through the Our Driving Concern traffic safety program.

We all play a role in eliminating distracted driving. Do your part.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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