Distracted driving is one of the top four primary contributing factors in car accident fatalities (along with not wearing a seatbelt, speeding and drunk driving.) According to distraction.gov, the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving, 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2012 alone. Increased use of cell phones, for both talking and texting, seem to be playing an ever-expanding role in distracted driving.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Almost half (48%) of drivers say they answer their cell phones while driving at least some of the time, and more than half of those (58%) continue to drive after answering the call.”
With only limited statutes in place (see our post on Drivers, Cell Phones, and MN Legislation to guide our choices), it’s up to us to make the tough decision to not use our phone while driving, but it’s a habit that can be a little hard to break.
The fine (up to $300) for violating Minnesota’s anti-texting law is incentive enough not to break it, but what about talking on your phone? Here are some ideas that might just help you break a possibly life-threatening habit.
Techniques for NOT using your phone while driving
Prepare in advance
Check your phone before getting into your car and/or when you arrive at your destination.
Place your phone out of reach, either in the backseat or, if you’re really worried you won’t be able to resist the temptation, in the trunk (but be sure not to lock your keys in there).
Talk to your friends, co-workers and family about the dangers of distracted driving. Let them know that you don’t want to put them in harm’s way by talking to them while they’re driving and you expect the same consideration from them. The more people who refuse to talk to someone while they are driving, the better. Also, if you are a passenger, speak up if the driver decides to use his/her phone. Don’t let someone else’s bad decision put you at risk.
Don’t be tempted
Leave it at home. Many of us can still remember a time when cell phones didn’t exist and it wasn’t all that bad. Next time you have to run to the store or meet a friend for coffee, try leaving your phone at home—you might enjoy the feeling of not being at everyone’s beck and call.
Use a reward system
If you’re really having a hard time breaking your behavior patterns, try rewarding yourself (maybe with a favorite snack or a coffee) for every time you drive somewhere and resist the urge to get on your phone.
Print out reminders
Print out statistics or articles about the dangers of distracted driving and keep them in your car where you’ll be reminded of it each time you get in.
If you are still having trouble curbing your phone use, at least pull off to the side of the road.
It may only be a matter of time until cell phone use is banned completely., but don’t put your life at risk waiting for someone else to make the safer decision.