As my oldest daughter embarks on her journey as a licensed driver, I am thinking about the risks of distracted driving. While there have always been distractions while driving – music, GPS, eating & drinking and personal grooming (sigh) – accidents caused by distracted driving have increased substantially. Even though vehicles have many more safety features (multiple air bags, crumple zones, etc.) distracted driving is the newest culprit in causing fatalities on the road.
HERE ARE A FEW SIMPLE STEPS TO SHARE WITH LOVED ONES:
- Put the phone away. Before starting the car, put your phone in the glove box, your purse or even the back seat. Keep it out of reach. Social Media can wait. So can texting. No message is as important as keeping yourself, passengers and other drivers safe. Having a lapse in contact is okay; that’s how older folks did it “last century.” Nowadays, think how happy your family will be when after your trip is over you text or call them to say you arrived safely.
- Pick your music before putting the car in gear. Occasionally, a song comes up you may not like. I get it, but wait until the car is stopped before changing radio stations. Songs are really pretty short so three or four minutes is a small price to pay to avoid being a distracted driver.
- Using GPS is great: It’s a big time-saver. It’s also comforting knowing where you are especially when going someplace new. If you use your phone’s GPS, invest in a vehicle mount that cradles your phone safely on your dashboard or above the heating and cooling controls. Securing a device this way, allowing a quick glance at the screen to identify your next turn, takes just a slight shift of your eyes while keeping your head level and both hands on the wheel.
- When talking on the phone, make sure it’s hands-free only. Use the system installed in newer cars or purchase a Bluetooth earpiece/speaker. While there are several types of Bluetooth earpieces, the rule “You Get What You Pay For” certainly applies. The better performing units cost about $100. There are also Bluetooth speakerphones that clip to the visor. Bluetooth is the only way to safely talk on a hands-free phone call while in the car.
- Monitoring an older car got easier: Verizon Hum+ is a unit that plugs into a car’s diagnostic port to monitor the Battery, Alternator, Coolant, Power Train, Electrical, Mechanical, Wiring and Emissions. It can even issue reminders about required maintenance, recap driving history, provide speed alerts and boundary alerts (particularly helpful with youthful drivers) and alert Roadside Assistance (including 10 miles of free towing in event of breakdowns). For about $10 a month, it’s a nice way for parents to get peace of mind about the car a teenager is driving.
The cellular communications industry is heavily invested in ending distracted driving. Remember, no distraction is worth putting a life at risk. Drive safely, arrive safely.
About the Author: Michael Drelicharz owns Wireless Zone of Barrington, a Verizon Wireless dealer, at 106-C N. Northwest Highway, Barrington; 847.942.3086.