If you’re not one of the millions of Americans who dials while driving, it is likely you know someone who does. This practices is known to increase the risk for accidents and traffic fines. Avoiding roadway incidents can help keep insurance rates in check. Here are some approaches to staying safer on the street.
* Limit phone use: While this is the most obvious method, it’s one that may be difficult for some drivers. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has tracked how Americans are becoming more connected through (and to) their mobile devices. However, research by institutions like Carnegie Mellon University show that mobile devices distract the driver, whether the device is being operated manually or hands-free. Drivers who are attentive to the road ahead can better react to obstacles in the street, changing conditions, and other drivers.
* Know the law: The National Safety Council keeps updated information about states that restrict mobile device use while driving. Restrictions limit behavior such as manual operation of devices while driving (versus hands-free use), driving while texting, and use of devices by teenagers. Also, NSC’s website indicates whether police officers apply these laws as a primary enforcement (motorists can be stopped for breaking the law) or as a secondary enforcement (motorists can be held accountable only if stopped for other reasons.) Learn the rules of the road to avoid these fines.
* Keep your hands on the wheel: Punching buttons and looking at your mobile’s screen while driving is dangerous. Hands-free devices aren’t optimal for driving safety, but they can prevent you from losing sight of what’s ahead. Most manufacturers sell systems for mounting phones in your car. Think about the design of your car before buying since your interior may be more suited to a specific mount, such as one that sits above your radio or connects to the windshield. To start talking hands-free, explore the features of your device. Most have slots to plug in ear bud headsets, which keep your conversations private from passengers. Also, some phones come with “speaker” buttons to amplify calls and pick up your voice. Newer devices use Bluetooth technology, which allows the driver to employ a headset similar to the ear buds but without any wires. Also, with Bluetooth-enabled cars, drivers can turn their stereo into a system for communicating with the other caller. Test any of these methods before getting on the road so that calls take place without the distraction of making adjustments.
With all of the above, remind yourself while driving just what the stakes are if a lapse in attention happens at the wrong moment. Above all else, stay “in touch” with the road.