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Kick distracted driving to the curb on your next road trip

Kick distracted driving to the curb on your next road trip

You love New Orleans, but sometimes it’s also nice to gather your family or friends and go on an adventure. There’s nothing like packing up the car, leaving your worries behind and hitting the road to check out new places—but safety always comes first. When you get behind the wheel, one of the most important ways to protect yourself and your family is avoid distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?

Texting might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of distracted driving, but a distraction when driving is anything that causes you to take your focus off the road. You get distracted when your mind is wandering or you’re trying to multitask. Maybe you are refereeing a “she’s touching me” fight in the backseat, looking for another song or checking the map on your phone. Whatever the reason, your attention isn’t on the road, where it should be, which can lead to distracted driving accidents.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 677,000 accidents were caused by some form of distracted driving in 2020, and over 3,000 of these crashes caused by distracted driving were fatal.

Distracted driving falls into three categories—and some things, such as texting, fall under more than one category, making them even more dangerous driver distractions:

  1. Visual: taking your eyes off the road. This includes texting/looking at phones, looking at a GPS device, looking at others in the car instead of the road and changing the radio station.
  2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel. Things, such as texting, changing the radio station or other entertainment input, eating and drinking, removing your jacket, putting on makeup, talking on a handheld device, and getting something out of the backseat or your wallet all fall under this category.
  3. Cognitive: taking your mind off your driving. This could be listening to an audiobook or a podcast, talking on the phone—even hands-free), talking to other passengers and thinking about other things that take your focus off your driving.

Ways to stay safe on the road

Fortunately, distracted driving is something you can avoid. Before your next road trip, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Before you leave, do anything that could take your attention from your driving ahead of time, such as eating, setting the temperature in the car, choosing music, making necessary phone calls, and sending texts or emails.
  • Stay smart. If something comes up while you’re driving that could cause distraction—such as a growling stomach or the need to take off a sweater—pull over at the next safe place. Don’t attempt to multitask while driving.
  • Be alert. If you’re the passenger in the car and you notice the driver getting distracted, speak up and offer to take the wheel. On a long trip, change drivers every two to three hours to ensure the driver is alert, too.
  • Make it a team effort. Have your passenger be in charge of navigation, music and temperature control.
  • Use an app. If you think you might be tempted to answer a call or text while driving, you can use an app that prevents cell phone use while the vehicle is in motion. This can also be a great tool to help teen drivers practice safe driving habits.
  • Avoid hands-free. Although many people believe that using hands-free methods for talking on the phone or controlling entertainment is safer, statistics show this isn’t the case. These activities still cause mental distraction while driving, even when your hands remain on the wheel.
At University Medical Center, our providers care about your safety. Talk with your primary care provider about ways to keep your family safe. Don’t have a primary care provider? Call us today at 504.365.4097 to schedule an appointment.