Tips for Avoiding a Distracted Driving Accident

In a statewide campaign that ran from April 11-19, Minnesota officers cracked down on distracted driving. During the weeklong campaign, officers handed out 972 citations for distracted driving, many of them in our area.

Unfortunately, distracted driving can lead to accidents. In 2015, distracted driving was a factor in 174 serious injury crashes and 74 deaths in Minnesota alone. There are, though, things you can do to avoid being involved in a distracted driving accident.

Understand the Types of Distractions

There are three types of driving distractions. The first is visual distractions. This is anything that takes your eyes off the road. It could include texting a friend, looking for a dropped object, or any other activity that takes your eyes off the road.

The second type of distraction is a manual distraction, which is anything that takes your hands off the wheel. Many of the same activities that take your eyes off the road will also take one or more of your hands off the wheel. You could, though, have one type of distraction without having the other.

The final type of distraction is a cognitive distraction. This is anything that takes your mind off the road. Talking on your cell phone, talking to a passenger, daydreaming, or even just planning out your day in your head could all be considered cognitive distractions. While visual distractions may seem like the most dangerous, any type of driving distraction could lead to a crash.

Common Distractions and Solutions

A study conducted last year by the Department of Public Safety looked at some of the common driving distractions in our state. Most of the top distractions fall under one of three areas: cell phones, interaction with passengers, and reaching for or using items. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent yourself from allowing these things to become a problem for you.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, there are certain restrictions placed upon drivers when it comes to cell phone use while driving. All drivers are prohibited from reading, composing, or sending texts while the vehicle is in motion or is part of traffic. This includes if you are stuck in a traffic jam or stopped at an intersection. Drivers under 18, as well as school bus drivers, are prohibited from talking on a cell phone at all. Exceptions are made if the person needs to call 911 in an emergency.

For your own safety, it is best to avoid talking on your cell phone while driving, even if it is legal for you to do so. If you are someone who knows you are going to be tempted by your phone going off, either turn off the sound, or place it somewhere where you will be unable to reach it while driving. If you have a passenger, you may want to have your passenger answer your phone or respond to texts.

While passengers can be a great help when it comes to navigation or helping you to stay alert, they can also be a distraction. Whether it is talking to the front-seat passenger or getting distracted by the kids fighting in the backseat, if your mind is on your passengers rather than on the road, an accident could happen. To avoid being distracted by a passenger, limit non-navigation discussions, particularly in congested or unfamiliar areas.

You should also teach your children proper vehicle behavior. Of course, sometimes teaching them proper behavior and having them use this behavior are two different things. When necessary, pull off to the side of the road to deal with behavioral issues. Even if you are running behind, it is better to be a little late than to get in a wreck because you were distracted by your arguing children.

Food, drinks, and reaching for other items in your vehicle can also cause a distraction. When taking a long drive, going without food or drink might be highly illogical. When possible, try to plan your trip so you can stop, get out of your vehicle, and eat. When that is not possible, at least try to avoid messy foods, and make sure items are secure enough that they will not go flying if you have to come to a quick stop. For example, put the drink in the cup holder rather than trying to balance it between your legs.

You can avoid other reaching distractions by having your passenger control the radio, music, or books-on-CD. Adjust your mirrors, steering wheel, and seat before taking off. If a child drops a toy or you otherwise think something needs to be picked up off the floor, have someone else get it, or wait to retrieve it until you can safely pull off of the road.

Unfortunately, even if you work to be an alert driver, you cannot control the actions of others on the road. If you were injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, contact us.