Multi-tasking is one of the most desirable skills in life today. It is not uncommon to call, email or chat while going about our day to today business. But using your phone while driving? That could literary be a killer skill- it is a very unsafe practice that has claimed many lives already.
Driving while distracted is always unwise. Phones distract from our ability to drive safely. Yet, we rely on our phones so much that we forget that it has become a distraction.
For many of us, the message doesn’t seem to get home. Despite several campaigns against using the phone while driving, close to 660,000 drivers in the United States admit to using their phones while driving. Things are not any different in Europe and other countries. The numbers are high among young drivers.
Ever since cellphones hit the mass market, the number of car accidents and fatalities from the same has increased. Analysts estimate that 23% of all auto accidents each year involve cellphone distractions.
According to the CDC, 3,331 people died in 2011 due to accidents caused by phone distractions, that figure was a leap from the 3,267 people that died in 2010 from the same.
Using Your Phone While Driving
1. Cognitive distraction
Cognitive distraction involves the driver diverting all their attention from the road to a mentally involving task. In this case, you might be making or receiving a call on a hands-free phone or using a voice-activated app like Siri or OK Google. Cognitive distraction can also happen when texting or emailing.
2. Visual distraction
This is the most common type of interference when driving with a phone. Visual disturbance involves the driver taking their eyes off the road to attend to tasks such as operating the GPS navigation system, texting or emailing. Doing that makes the driver lose focus, and even if it is for mere seconds, fatal accidents can occur.
3. Manual distraction
Manual distractions involve the driver taking their hands off the wheel to attend to some tasks. That could involve using GPS or texting. Manual distractions often cause accidents by slowing your reaction time.
Distraction and Attention
Using phones on the road is a high-risk affair because it often involves all the three distractions. Visual because you have to see what you are typing as you text your pal, Cognitive because you are thinking about what to say when chatting or arguing over the phone and manual because you have to scroll your contacts or follow the GPS navigation.
These distractions slow your reaction time. Researchers found that even legally drunk drivers often have a better response time than drivers distracted by a phone.
Phone usage while driving impairs the attentive functioning of the brain. Then, of course, you will be blind to your immediate environment and not see traffic signs, pedestrians or other vehicles.
Immense efforts have been made to create awareness about the dangers of phone usage when driving. The battle is also being fought from a legislative and technological front. Some laws have been put in place to illegalize driving while texting, while some apps are being invented to prevent distracted driving.
Innovative hardware and software solutions can help to limit phone usage while on the road. Insurers are also using similar apps to reduce accidents and help reduce claims. But personally, what can you do to attentively and safely drive with your phone?
Personal Safety Measure You Can Take
1.Making and taking phone calls
•Take full advantage of your phone’s features
If you carefully go through your phone’s manual, you will be surprised to find that there are ways you can use it hands-free, or without spending too much of your visual or cognitive attention on it. Features such as speed dial can help you make quick phone calls without having to ever take your eyes from the road.
2. You can also use voice dialer or the auto-answer feature.
•Pull over to make the call
It is not advisable to make and receive phone calls while driving. In states like Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and many others it is illegal to use your cell phone while driving. That includes texting, making phone calls or looking at videos. NHTSA also reports that 32 countries across the world have a similar ban- no using phones while driving.
The only way to be on the safe side of the law, and of course to be safe from accidents is to pull over when you want to make a phone call or text someone. Ensure to stop somewhere that is safe for you, other drivers and pedestrians as well.
•Use a hands-free device
There are many hand free accessories you can use that are either portable or in-car. Before you start your journey, it would be wise to check and ensure that the hand's free device is set up and working correctly. Hands-free devices will let you make or receive phone calls without taking your hands off the wheel.
•Shorten the conversation
Even when you use a hands-free device, you will not be immune to cognitive distractions. For that reason, it is advisable to make all phone calls before starting the journey. However, if you have to receive or make phone calls while on the road, ensure to shorten the conversation.
Do not engage in arguments or emotional phone conversations when driving. If the phone call starts to take this direction, inform the person on the other end that you are driving and end the call. Emotionally engaging conversations are distracting and are a significant cause of fatal accidents.
•Let your phone be within reach
It is not uncommon to get distracted when we hear a phone ringing. The same can happen while on the road. Having it in a place where you can see minimizes the amount of time you take your eyes off the road.
The other alternative is to silence your phone so that you don’t hear it ringing or vibrating with messages at all. Many times we are compelled to answer a call or text because we are aware of it. Silencing your phone is a safe trick to calm the mind so that you can focus on driving. The world will still be there when you reach your destination.
•Let a passenger do the talking
Driving with a family member, friend or colleague? Let them answer or make phone calls for you then relay the message back to you. It is much safer that way. It helps to free your mind, eyes and hands of distractions when driving.
•Make emergency calls
Even though the cell phone is a significant distraction that risk lives on the road, they can also be used to save lives. In accident situations, you can protect yourself and your loved ones by dialing emergency numbers. Such free and quick calls can save lives when you get into a traffic accident or medical emergency on the road. The same is the case when you witness an accident or crime while driving.
Reading messages and looking at videos
A recent survey shows that people are more likely to text or look at emails than make calls when driving. The study indicates that there is 66 % higher risk of fatal accidents when operating a phone. In 2017 alone, 800 crash deaths occurred in the US, caused by drivers’ texting and doing things with their phones other than calling or receiving calls
•Log out of social media
These activities take our eyes and mind off the road in a way that is even worse than drunk driving according to experts. Don’t get caught up in a situation where you have to scroll your social media while driving.
•Turn off notifications
Also, there is no denying how that WhatsApp video or meme can be tempting. The same goes for text messages from your friends, family or colleagues. To be on the safe side turn off notifications when driving.
Maps and Navigation
Thanks to the GPS technology, YOU no longer have to remember the street address or route to your destination. Following a GPS map on your phone while driving is how most of us drive today. Even though it is helpful, it can be quite distracting.
•Set your destination before you depart
If you cannot get to your destination without GPS assistance, it would be safe for you to set your destination before you start the journey. That will help you drive without the urge to look at your phone. When driving at full speed, taking your eyes off the road even for a few seconds can lead to fatal accidents.
•Use a phone dock on the dashboard
It is much safer to place the phone where you can see the maps as you drive. It minimizes the time your visual attention will be off the road when following GPS navigation. Additionally, remember to set your phone so that it stays awake during the length of your trip so that you don’t have to touch to see map manually.
Technology got us in this jam of distracted driving, and maybe in the near future technology will get us out of it with smart cars that have emergency braking and lane departure cautioning systems among other accident prevention measures. For now, it is upon us to sensibly use our phones while on the road.
Should I use my phone while at a stop light?
While it is generally safer to use your phone at a stop light than while driving, it still can lead to accidents. You might be even more likely to get into a fender bender at a stop light because your attention is even more distracted because you feel safer while stopped or driving very slow.
Can I use my phone while driving in my state?
Most states have some ban on using phones while driving. To see what type of ban your state has look up the laws for your state and county. Here is a link to a PDF with state bans.