Although the April campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month is in the rearview mirror, the need for distracted driving awareness continues.
Why? Because even though we are driving less due to COVID-19, traffic accident-related crash fatalities are on the rise.
Collectively, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that driving went down by 14.5% in the first nine months of 2020. However, we saw a 5% increase in traffic accident-related crash fatalities versus 2019.1
The agency also reported that distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2019 – a 10% increase from 2018.2
The NHTSA defines “distracted driving” as any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving. This includes:
- Cell phone use
- Adjusting car controls
Distracted driving is attributed to 37% of incidents,3 which includes crashes that led to injuries and fatalities. This doesn’t just impact individuals, but also employers who may face:
- Increased medical care, legal expenses, property damage
- Increased workers’ compensation, Social Security and private health and disability insurance
- Increased overhead to administer these programs
- Lost productivity
Five Ways to Reduce Distractions While Driving
Some distractions are tough to avoid. It’s unlikely a four-hour family road trip won’t involve talking or squabbling over song choices. But, there are steps you can take to reduce distractions and keep your focus on the wheel.
- Eat first: One of the safest ways to keep yourself from becoming a distracted driver is to manage non-driving tasks before you get on the road. Coffee, snacks and food included!
- Rely on passengers: Letting your passengers help with tasks that could distract you – like answering the phone, texting or adjusting the radio – can help you remain more focused on driving.
- Use steering wheel controls: Adjusting the AC or the radio can also pose a huge risk because it involves taking both eyes off the road and one hand off the wheel.
- Pull over to care for children: If kids are in the car, do not look back while driving to tend to them. Be sure to pull over to a safe spot before taking care of their needs.
- Avoid conflict. When driving, it’s helpful to avoid emotionally charged conversations with your passenger so you can keep your attention on the road.
Five Defensive Driving Tips to Help Keep You Safe
In addition to the distractions inside the car, you also have to be aware of other drivers around you. Being a defensive driver can help reduce your risk of getting into an accident. While you’re out on the road, you can use these five defensive driving tips:
- Be farsighted so you can see the road ahead.
- Keep your eyes moving to look for hazards and actions of other drivers.
- Take in the whole picture and watch for brake lights or slowing traffic.
- Communicate your every move with turn signals or brakes.
- Maintain adequate space between you and the car ahead.
Driving Demands Your Undivided Attention
Some of the biggest hazards we face on the road will come from inside our own vehicles. Just as all roads contain hazards, all commutes have their share of distractions. You can’t always avoid them, but through careful planning, you can help keep them from causing crashes.
Avoiding using your mobile device is an especially important one because 13% of all fatal distraction-affected crashes involve a cell phone.4 Text messaging is banned in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. If you’re alone and struggling not to text while driving, plan ahead. Stash your phone out of reach, like in the glove box or back seat of your car. If you must make or take a call, pull over to talk.
For business customers, get more information and resources to help keep your employees safe by visiting The Hartford’s Risk Engineering website.
For individuals, learn more about common driving distractions and tips to stay safe behind the wheel at The Hartford’s Extra Mile.