Safe Driving is the Result of Good Habits, Not Good Fortune

Some break the wishbone for good luck as part of an annual Thanksgiving ritual. My hope is that you will not leave traffic safety to luck as your employees head out for a long holiday weekend. Use this Q&A as a safety tool to reinforce safe driving habits.

Let’s focus on seven questions related to distracted driving. And let’s work toward a shared goal of keeping travelers focused on the road ahead:

1. How big of a problem is distraction on our roadways? In Texas, an average of more than 260 crashes every day involve distracted driving, according to analysis of data from the Texas Department of Transportation. That number is believed to be conservative because so many distracted driving incidents go unreported.

2. What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about distracted driving? People cling to the “not-me” mentality. They think they can make a call while driving and not be distracted because that crash, well, it’s not going to happen to me.

Multitasking: It’s a myth. The brain cannot handle two thinking tasks at once. Rather, your brain quickly toggles back-and-forth from one thinking task to another. Talking on a cell phone and driving are both thinking tasks. In the time it takes to toggle from one to the other, you could end up in a crash.

People are unaware of distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features. Research indicates drivers using handheld and hands-free phones only see about 50% off all the information in their driving environment. This phenomenon is called “inattention blindness.” Think of it as driving blindfolded. Who does that?

3. What are some effective methods we can use to reduce electronic distractions? Education: 1. Give 100% of your attention to driving 100% of the time. 2. Phone settings: Select “do not disturb.” 3. Directions: Set your GPS system before departing.

4. Beyond cell phones, what are some other distractions that drivers might not realize are dangerous? Distraction is the result of anything that takes your mind off driving. Personal distractions can result from eating, drinking and personal grooming. Cognitive distractions can result from cell phone use and/or daydreaming.

5. How can we change driver behavior and make distracted driving socially unacceptable? Here, one question begs another: When will distracted driving be viewed with the same type of social stigma that now is attached to smoking in public places? Drivers need to learn and understand that while today’s vehicle technologies are at their fingertips, they can pose risks to safety. And drivers need to make use of technology in ways that won’t jeopardize their own safety or the safety of others around them.

6. How can we use technology to help us solve the problem of distracted driving? Cell phone blocking devices can help drivers stay focused on driving and prevent distracted-driving crashes.

7. What resources and thoughts should you take away from this learning exercise? Employers can lead in the fight to end distracted driving. Get free educational materials, free resources and free training from Our Driving Concern. We all play a role in eliminating distracted driving.  Do your part.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– Lisa Robinson is a senior program manager at the National Safety Council