Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of accidents during the holiday season, as we’ve mentioned before. But it is also a driving hazard 365 days a year.
While we can’t control other people’s driving habits, we can certainly take care of our own. And one of the easiest ways to lessen the number of distracted drivers on the road is by refusing to be one of them.
Here are six easy ways to avoid driving distractions and be a better, safer driver.
1. Put your phone away.
Yes, we hear this one all the time: texting and driving is bad. But you don’t have to be texting while driving to be a distracted driver.
Just hearing the ding of messages or notifications on your phone can be distracting and pull your mind away from the most important task at hand—getting to your destination in one piece. If you can, put your phone away in the glove compartment, a purse or backpack, or a coat pocket while you drive.
After all, what the ads say is true: nothing on your phone is that important on the road.
2. Minimize conversations.
If you don’t have to talk on the phone while you’re driving, then keep your phone put away. But if you do have to have a phone conversation on the road, be sure to use a Bluetooth device or connect your phone to your car’s speakers. Any way you can keep both hands on the wheel is the best way to go.
If you have a lot of passengers in the car, conversations right there can also be distracting. Try not to be a central part of the talk in the car, or to avoid emotional topics. You need most of your thinking power to be on the road, not on the latest political gossip.
3. Choose easy-listening music.
Many drivers can’t drive without having the radio on. If you are one such driver, then be sure to choose a station that plays music you can tune out like white noise. Or bring your own soundtrack of music you truly enjoy.
If you don’t have to actively listen to the music, you can keep your mind on the cars around you. But if you have a hard time concentrating while driving with the music on, then by all means—turn the radio off.
4. Get enough sleep.
Another way to be distracted on the road is by thinking about your nice, warm bed, a nap, or how tired you are. Although we can’t always control it, you should try to get enough sleep before you get on the road.
Studies have shown that tired driving is just as bad as drunk driving, and both lead to a distracted kind of driving. Avoid driving when you are fatigued.
If you are exhausted but have to get somewhere, take a taxi or ride share, ride public transportation, or have a friend or colleague transport you. And if you realize while you’re driving that you are very tired, then pull over and take a nap.
5. Let somebody else drive if you’re stressed.
When you are stressed out, worried, or upset, your mind certainly won’t be on the road while you drive. Whether you are thinking about finances, family, or some other problem, focusing on stressful situations while you drive is distracted driving.
If you are in a state of stress, worry, or upset, then don’t drive yourself. Find another way to get to your destination that takes you out of the driver seat.
6. Start being a planner.
This last tip is a bit of life advice for us all. We can’t plan everything in life, but we can try to balance out the things we can control. Creating planning habits allows us to take control of the things we can deal with, cutting out stress and other emotions that create distracted drivers.
Some things you can do include making and sticking to a household budget, writing lists, writing down your thoughts or journaling, creating a weekly menu and shopping list, getting enough sleep, exercise, and food, and keeping your appointments and deadlines in a calendar. Trying to keep track of these many elements of life means that they are accounted for, acknowledged, and that we are trying to make the best of them.
Also, the more you have things catalogued, listed, or written down in some way, the less likely you will be to having them all floating around in your head during important situations, like when you’re in a meeting, at a parent-teacher conference, or while driving.
These may seem like very simple things, but they can make a big difference toward making you a more present driver. Nobody wants to be in a car accident, small or serious; the fewer distracted drivers there are on the road, the less our own likelihoods will be of getting into such an accident.
And when it comes to other drivers, the best advice is textbook-golden: give yourself plenty of room to react, and be aware of where the other cars are ahead of you, to your sides, and behind you.