Distracted driving is something that is preventable, yet, “each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, September 16, 2019). You can control distractions in the car to prevent a fatal accident or injury. The main types of distractions are visual, taking your eyes from the road, manual, taking your hands from the wheel, and cognitive, taking your mind from the driving (Ibid). We often associate distractions with texting while driving, or driving under the influence but, consider the fact that the driver can be distracted simply by allowing his or her mind to wander, exhausted from a long day at work or school. If the driver puts away all devices from reach, and does not drive when emotionally disturbed, he or she is then able to better focus on the road. There are many ways to facilitate this process. We encourage a “Distracted Driving Family Plan” to control and address three things: objects that distract us, people that distracts us, and our individual thoughts that distract us. The “Distracted Driving Family Plan” attacks optimism bias, as many people do not heed to not being distracted while driving because they think that they are above causing a serious accident.
Begin with researching statistics that relate directly to distracted driving, make the numbers personal, write it out on a notecard, then, place it on common distractions in the car like the radio, glove compartment, and television, if applicable. For example, consider these statistics that deal with cases resulting from distracted driving; in 2010, 3,092 people died and 416,000 were injured and in 2015, 3,477 people died and 391,000 were injured (Ibid). Additionally, although there has been a decrease in the amount of injuries taking place, the amount of deaths has only increased, as in 2018, 4,637 died as a result of distracted driving (The Zebra, Distracted Driving Statistics, April 9, 2019). Using this information, you could write on a notecard that, “from 2010 to 2018, there has been an increase of approximately 1,545 preventable deaths related to distracted driving; make sure you are not distracted so that I’m not one of them”. Then use tape to place this card over the radio, glove compartment, or television. This fact gets straight to the point with an added personal touch. Notice that we said the television, glove compartment, or radio. The radio and glove compartment are in the front of the vehicle and the television behind the driver. This is because even though the driver may not directly be interacting with the device, it can still affect him or her. It is everyone’s job to ensure safety.
The note card can be as personal as you want them to be. Because we are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we could make the notecard hit even closer to home by writing that “in Milwaukee in 2018, there were 28,478 crashes because of distracted driving; let’s do our part to lower this number” (DOT, Wisconsin. Final Year-End Crash Statistics by County. State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation). Adding a personal touch to the data helps to make the notecards more genuine.
Some friend groups stack their phones in the middle of the table and whoever touches their phone during the meal, is responsible for paying for the entire meal. The “Distracted Driving Family Plan” would follow a similar idea, where you place our phones, laptops, and iPads, in the center console, or, trunk, as some items will not fit in the center console. Like the note cards placed on the radio, glove compartment, and television, we would place a statistic on the center console or inside of the trunk, telling of the risk of distracted driving. All devices would be turned off or turned to silent. That way, there is no temptation. It is imperative that everyone including the driver put their phone in the center console because, as mentioned prior, the actions of one person can affect another person. For example, if the passenger is having an important conversation with a shared friend and the driver recalls that she has something she deems important to say to that shared friend, her attention is now divided, and the passenger is an indirect cause. A study finds that, “many families are still struggling for time to properly bond and enjoy each other without distraction”; this plan allows time for that, encouraging interpersonal communication that may not happen on a regular basis (Paul, Sam. American Families Barely Spend Quality Time Together, New York Post, 20 Mar. 2018).
It is important to note that this system will initially cause frustration, as change is not easy to do. But the hope is that eventually members will develop a system of their own, telling people not to reach out to them during certain times they will be in the car. Lastly, our thoughts serve as distractions. Yet, passengers can help the passenger stay focused. When family members talk, they should talk about things that do not cause a heavy emotional response, or, cause too much thinking, so that distraction is not a result. Topics like funerals, problems at work, and finances, that may bring about frustration, sadness, or, anger, fall within this category. Leave your problems and issues outside of the car.
When someone chooses to drive, the individual’s life, alongside that of the passengers are in the driver’s hands, which begs the seriousness of the issue. Some drivers struggle from road rage. Not many consider the consequences of the reaction that occurs if they catch the attention of the other driver. Road rage can stem from getting cut off, one’s inability to pass, getting flipped off, getting honked at multiple times, and tailgating. If this is you, try to plan the route accordingly so that, no one has to rush and there is no pressure on the driver. Take deep breaths to calm down. Moreover, no one knows what the other is going through, therefore, consider the worst before you act. It is the job of a passenger to call out a driver when he or she needs to calm down or regroup. Remind the driver that the other driver may be having a bad day, as everyone does.
This plan stands between responding to one more call, or, text and taking your last breath. Accidents happen but we have a duty to eliminate those that are preventable, because while we have a duty to ourselves, we also have a duty to the greater good. By making data relatable and preparing for our drives to our destination, we help to take away the risk of becoming a distracted driver. What we do now could save a life.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, September 16, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html
DOT, Wisconsin. Final Year-End Crash Statistics by County. State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, wisconsindot.gov/Pages/about-wisdot/newsroom/statistics/final-county.aspx.
Paul, Sam. American Families Barely Spend Quality Time Together, New York Post, 20 Mar. 2018, nypost.com/2018/03/20/american-families-barely-spend-quality-time-together/.
The Zebra, Distracted Driving Statistics, April 9, 2019, https://www.thezebra.com/distracted-driving-statistics/.