How To Avoid Distracted Driving

Any defensive driving or driver’s ed class will preach about the importance of driving with your full focus on the road.

But even though this is a standard lesson to learn, people still engage in all sorts of weird behavior behind the wheel.

And we’re not just talking cell phone use here, although that is certainly a major concern. There are still many other ways that drivers get their focus taken from the road, from engaging in PDA to changing clothes, taking selfies to going to the bathroom, or even flossing. Unfortunately, even though it can result in fatal accidents, drivers still continue to do dangerous activities that take their attention away from the road.

If you’re just now taking driver’s ed online, it can be incredibly easy to skip over this type of information. After all, we know we’re not supposed to do those things—although we still continue to do them. But by combining some of the other knowledge you’ll gain in online driver’s ed, you’ll be much more successful in eliminating distractions and becoming a much safer driver behind the wheel.

Communicate With Passengers

Passengers can be great to have along for the ride, and many times all a driver has to do is ask a favor and either the person in the passenger seat or someone in the back will happily volunteer to help. Need to change the temperature? Want a different song on? Need to text someone? Instead of trying to do those things yourself, all you have to do is ask someone else in the car to take care of it.

Of course, passengers can also take away your attention from the road. When you first enrolled in driver’s ed, you probably envisioned fun evenings driving around with your best friends. The truth is, their jokes, pranks, conversations, volume level, and antics can pose a serious risk on the road.

It’s at this moment that you truly have to step into the role of an adult and take responsibility for your life, the lives of the passengers in the car, and of the other people on the road. If you find it hard to concentrate as your friends are laughing loudly in the backseat or if you don’t quite appreciate that they continue to kick your seat, it’s important to speak up. Let them know you really wish you could enjoy the moment but you’re most concerned about keeping everyone safe. Remember that there will always be plenty of time to buddy up and relax once the car has stopped.

Keep Your Car Clean

This goes beyond simply making sure your car has a clean bill of health, which any online driver’s ed class will remind you what a good idea it is to get regular car maintenance check-ups as preventative measures. If you’re the type that has to scramble and make space for a human being every time you have a passenger, though, it might be wise to do some serious interior cleaning as well.

Stray papers in the backseat, random sports gear, and miscellaneous electronics (among other things) may seem pretty harmless by themselves. However, these can become quite the distraction at any point that you’re on the road. Not only could things roll around and even potentially make their way to the floor of the driver’s side—a dangerous prospect that could impair you from braking or accelerating properly—but as things slide around during a ride you might be tempted to reach for something.

Distracted driving comes in so many more forms than simply a glance at your cell phone while you’re behind the wheel. It can entail kicking a water bottle out from under your seat, reaching for papers that are flying around in the back, or rummaging through loose shopping bags for something you just got. The safest place to put extra things is always going to be in the trunk—this not only ensures that they’re out of your way, but they also won’t go flying around in the event of an accident. If you find that a lot of things are laying around in your car’s main area, take an afternoon to clear it out.

Adjust The Car Before You Hit The Road

In-car adjustments wouldn’t seem like the type of thing that would cause a lot of accidents. After all, it’s not like a video or a rowdy passenger is taking your attention away from the road; instead, it’s simply the car itself. Don’t think that makes it okay, though. Distracted driving is “anything that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, or their mind off their primary task of driving safely.” So yes, adjusting your mirrors, scooting your seat back, or changing the direction of the air conditioning vents counts as a distraction.

To some degree, these types of adjustments can’t be avoided. For example, if you turn on the air when you get in the car, but about twenty minutes later decide you just want to roll down the windows, making some small adjustments seems inevitable. But just because it’s relatively commonplace and sounds pretty easy doesn’t mean it can’t also be dangerous.

To avoid major problems while you’re behind the wheel, always make the routine adjustments before you put the car in drive. Like you’ll learn in any online driver’s ed, move your rearview mirror around, adjust the side mirrors, put the volume of your music where you’d like it, make your seat comfortable, and set up your GPS with your destination. This will cost you a grand total of an extra minute or so before you take off, but it will make the journey that much safer.

Be A Safe Passenger

You will not be the driver all the time. There are some instances where you’ll occupy the passenger seat. As a passenger, you are highly encouraged to help drivers stay free from distractions. In the same way you wouldn’t get in a vehicle with a drunk driver; you also don’t want to be with a distracted driver. Don’t bother the driver with unnecessary things, and don’t engage them in an argument or emotional discussions. Keep the conversation calm and light. Drivers drive more safely if they are in a relaxed and positive state of mind. Wait until you get to your destination before talking about serious matters. 

Refrain from pointing things along the way so that the driver won’t take his eyes off the road. A split-second distraction is all it takes for a fatal accident to happen. Proactively offer your assistance by replying to texts or answering calls on the driver’s behalf. Safely co-pilot the driver on unfamiliar routes by checking the directions to help them navigate the road. It also helps to inform the driver that you are ready to work on the dashboard controls if he needs to adjust the air conditioning or radio volume. 

Doing these seemingly simple and easy tasks keeps the driver’s attention and focus on the road instead of multitasking. Ask the driver to pull over for an immediate matter or emergency that you need to attend to. And of course, don’t forget to buckle up. Even if you are not behind the wheel, you can always do your share in making the ride safe and sound.