"With more people doing more things with more devices, the chances that a distracted driver will cross your path on a daily basis is very likely," said Tracey Virtue, Vice President of AutoMD.com. "Today, consumers can have their Facebook news feed on their wrist, their work email on one smartphone and their personal texts on another. Today's carscan even park for the driver. That amount of information, and forced technology interaction, is distracting. Behind the wheel, it's a recipe for an accident."
Slim and perfectly designed to fit the hand, today's "smart devices" slip into pockets and lives in a most natural way, and cars are becoming mobile digital living rooms. Today, mobile devices and in-car technology are everywhere, doing just about everything. Most of all, personal devices are growing and changing in a multitude of ways: manufacturers are developing larger screens, comprehensive in-car tech, and, of course, the now-popular smartwatch – making it possible for us to be connected right at the wrist, or fingertips.
To help people find ways to lower the number of these possible distractions – and temptations – while driving, AutoMD experts offer ten tips to help keep eyes on the road.
- Put your Smartphone Away, and Turn it Off
That may seem a bit extreme, given how attached we are to those smartphones. But turning off the phone during a drive – and especially a commute – removes temptation to text or check email. (Even consider putting it in the trunk).That in itself can provide a little sanity to the hectic work day.
- Lack Discipline? Consider a Distraction-Blocker App
If you just can't get yourself to turn the phone off, or stow it in a briefcase, there's (of course) a tech solution. These driver distraction apps work by limiting the number of people you can call or text, shutting down third-party apps and blocking certain types of phone use above a pre-determined speed. Most major smartphone carriers, such as AT&T and Sprint, offer their own, and there are third-party versions that may offer more versions. For example, DriveSafe.ly is a free app that translates texts and email into real time audio.
- Avoid Apps that are Built to Distract
Ask yourself if you really need to play that word game while driving on the freeway. Of course, you don't – but many of us just can't resist. The interactive nature of mobile games and traffic apps like Waze may be addicting, but try to avoid using them for anything more than notifications and audio updates.
- Take a Moment and Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
There's nothing more frustrating or distracting than attempting to map out an address while you're travelling to the actual location. It's virtually impossible to get it right, and, even if you do, not knowing (or trusting) where your navigation system is going can lead to confusion about the route and attention away from the road. Before you hit the throttle, plug in the coordinates and take a look at the directions, so that you're prepared. And always pay attention to the audio (not visual) directions while cruising down the road.
- Be Patient, that Email Can Wait
Your boss just sent you an email offering up a new project. What to do? First, see number 1: there's plenty of time to answer that email when you reach your destination. If you can't let it go, however, pull over briefly, check for urgent emails and take care of business. Then get back out on the road. It's the safe approach in two ways: as a driver, and an employee. Do you really want to respond to your boss using one thumb?
- Practice Safe and Defensive Driving Techniques
You aren't the only one with a smartphone, or the only one who's tempted to text and drive. So be prepared to encounter other distracted drivers, focus on the road, be aware, and drive defensively.
- Be a Human Helper
As great as in-car telematics are, they can be distracting – especially when accessing the systems or explaining the request. If you are a passenger, offer instead to handle the interplay between the friendly computer lady and other navigational issues for the driver. It helps to keep eyes and ears tuned to the road, and can be more effective.
- All Technology Distracts, Some of the Time
From in-car telematics to digital devices, the technology we use is more powerful and complicated than ever before. It pays to remember that a driver should only have one job – to drive – and that while some types of technology can help with that, anything that shifts attention away from the road is a distraction, and should be used when the car is in "P."
- Consider Onboard Technology vs Mobile BYOD Technology
Just like with personal devices, in-car technology features are becoming more useful and intuitive, with real time data and easy to use interfaces. That's great news, because as a general rule, in-car is safer than BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): Safety protocols are hard-wired into the system, screens are larger, graphics are designed for at-a-glance use, and more.
- Actually Drive the Car – Don't Let it Drive You
Self-parking technology, lane detection warning systems…you name it, today's new cars have an "electronic nanny" for just about everything. As great as those safety-oriented systems are, they will never replace the most critical function inside your vehicle: driving. Responsible drivers use this sort of technology as-needed, but never forget that the most important function of all is in the simple act of driving the car and staying focused on the road ahead.