woman-using-phone-in-carApril marks National Distracted Driving Awareness month. Considering I am still in a rental from my cars chance meeting with a deer four weeks ago, this one hits home for me.

A whopping 90% of car crashes are from driver error, not environmental factors. So although I happen to fall into the smaller 10% of that statistic, I can’t help but analyze how I drive on a daily basis. I’ve realized my mind wanders a lot, and I spend a lot less time thinking about the road than I do thinking about my dinner. These seemed like harmless side effects of a long commute to me, until our Safety Manager, Rob, educated us on the realities of how most people drive.

The part of your brain which processes moving images decreases up to 1/3 when just listening on your phone. So as much as we all think by using our Bluetooth or speaker phone features we are doing our part in keeping traffic running smoothly, you’re not as focused as you think.

Almost every time I see a new car commercial I learn about some cooler, smarter, seemingly safer technology. Little did I know that some of these we are utilizing on a daily basis are actually harmful. Dashboard features like talk, text, and social media all have negative effects; and did you know voice texting is actually more dangerous than standard texting? Conversely, crash avoidance systems, stability control, and GPS are all helpful when behind the wheel.

As it turns out, burning extra gas on driving your friends around might be worth it! It has been proven that adults driving with a passenger increase their safety by providing another set of eyes to point out hazards. Adults also naturally refrain from talking when they can tell the driver is in difficult traffic. So next time your buddy yells “shotgun!” be sure to thank them!

Lastly I leave you with two easy reminders which could undoubtedly be life savers.
First – wear your seatbelt. Mine saved me from any potential airbag or windshield injury, and yours will too. Don’t let your passengers get away with saying they choose not to wear one -you don’t want to wish you would have said something when it’s too late.
Secondly – use your trunk for any objects that could become projectiles. We have a tendency to pile things into our back seat which can easily fly up front and cause serious harm to the driver or font passenger if suddenly there’s a change in force.

As Rob pointed out to our group, we all think we are indestructible at some point or another. We think that we can send out that 5 word text without harm, think that we are late and speeding is the only answer, or that we can reach down after dropping our phone between the seats. The potential of harm that these seemingly simple actions can cause is just not worth it. You only get one life, so take care of it.