Distracted driving is something that can refer to different situations when you’re behind the wheel and not fully focused on the road in front of you.
While very common, distracted driving is also very dangerous and all-too-often deadly. For example, texting while driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes today.
Other distractions we may face while driving include eating and drinking while driving, talking on the phone while driving, and losing mental focus, which may happen because someone in the car is talking to you or you’re feeling drowsy.
If you’re a parent, you may face even more distractions, and they can be dangerous. If your children are young and crying you may be turning around trying to figure out what they want.
If your children are older, they may be talking to you or fighting with one another, which can distract you as well.
Plus, when you’re a parent, your attention is probably divided more often than it’s not thinking about work, school commitments activities and everything else that comes with the territory.
Even though distracted driving can seem like a part of everyday life, just a few seconds can mean a deadly accident occurs.
The following are ways to avoid distracted driving and in particular, tips that apply to parents.
Use the SMART Method
There is something called the SMART method you can follow to avoid distracted driving. The SMART method is often used to help teenagers learn to drive without distractions, but it can be helpful for frazzled parents as well.
The SMART method stands for the following:
- Stay focused on driving
- Make preparations before you begin, including securing your children, finding everything you need and storing any loose items
- Avoid all other activities
- Rely on passengers to help you with making calls or texts or helping with children
- Text or talk later
Feed Your Kids Before You Drive
When you’re busy and you’re on-the-go with your kids, you may also be handing food to the backseat or helping them eat.
Try to avoid this.
Don’t have anyone eat food in the car, including your kids, because it’s a distraction for you.
You shouldn’t eat while you’re driving either.
Make it a family rule that everyone eats outside of the car before you head out.
When you have young kids, you really want to make sure you do everything you can to prepare them for a car trip before you leave the house. This means clean diapers, well-fed and happy babies make for the best travelers.
Set Car Rules
Your kids need to know the rules and expectations when you’re in the car and you’re driving. Create very clear, decisive rules about talking, yelling, fighting, asking for help, or doing anything else that could take your eyes and attention off the road.
One of the rules should also be that your kids don’t hand you anything while you’re driving. You shouldn’t have a free hand to use to help your kids when you’re behind the wheel. Additionally, your kids need to know that another driving rule is that if something is dropped, it won’t be picked up until the car is stopped.
If something happens and your baby or older child starts crying, the best thing to do is either pull over or just let them cry until you can stop. Trying to solve the problem while you’re on the road can be incredibly dangerous.
Involve Your Kids
Kids like the idea of being involved in things and particularly if that means they can hold you accountable.
Encourage your kids to follow the rules and to make sure you’re doing the same.
Let them know the behavior you want to follow, such as pulling over before you respond to a text.
If your kids see you not following your own rules, they can let you know. It becomes like a fun game for them, but also a real reminder for you.
Try to Drive With Another Adult Whenever Possible
Whenever you have the option to drive with your spouse or a friend or family member, take it.
They can help deal with the kids and you can focus on the road. This is especially important if you’re taking a longer road trip.
Use Apps and Technology
There are a growing number of apps that are geared toward combatting distracted driving, and if you’re someone who worries about your driving habits, you might want to think about using one or more of these tools.
The LifeSaver app was designed to change what the creators describe as the culture of distracted driving. The app automatically detects when a person is driving and then blocks their cell phone use without the need for extra hardware.
Another option is the Drivemode app, which was founded by people from Tesla Motors and Zipcar.
The mobile platform provides a simple and user-friendly interface with voice-enabled commands and large buttons, making it easier to focus solely on driving. The voice-control lets you move between applications you may need to use while driving, such as navigation apps and music apps.
TrueMotion Family is a family-based app to prevent distracted driving.
TrueMotion uses machine learning and data science, along with what’s called signal processing. It then provides information about how you drive and driving insights for the entire family.
The app can sense vehicle behavior such as mileage, braking acceleration, speeding, and the time of day people in the family are driving.
It can also provide contextual information about road type, traffic, and weather.
Finally, try not to drive when you’re exhausted. That may be a challenge if you feel like you’re exhausted all the time, but driving while tired can be a major source of cognitive distraction. When you’re driving and especially when you have your kids in the car you want to be rested, present and mindful as much as possible.
Everything else can wait until you’re no longer driving.