Forty-six states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently ban texting while driving, but texting isn’t the only way to be distracted while behind the wheel. Fumbling with navigational apps, looking down for a split second to answer a call, or even hitting shuffle on your playlist diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving, which can endanger yourself, your passengers, fellow motorists and pedestrians. The very technology that we rely on to keep us connected to friends and loved ones is the same technology that can change lives in an instant unless we take measures to tame smartphone use in the car.
The first step to taming smartphone use is to acknowledge the behavior. Then, take steps to stop it. Pledging to stop texting and driving is a great first step, but the actions that follow are just as important. Here are three things to start doing now to keep yourself and others safer when you’re on the road:
1. Put your phone out of reach
It’s hard to use your phone if you can’t reach it, so put it in an out-of-the-way place like the glove compartment. The inconvenience of having your phone out of arm’s reach will make you think twice about reaching for it to answer a call or text. Also, take a moment to turn down the ringer before you start your vehicle so you can’t hear call or text notifications while in motion.
2. Engage audible navigation systems
New vehicles on the market feature in-car navigation systems that prevent driver distractions and promote efficiency, but if you have an older vehicle, there are many smartphone apps that provide audible, real-time traffic info to help you reach your destination in a safe way. Listening for spoken turn-by-turn directions, rerouting instructions thanks to GPS features, and notifications of upcoming road hazards like traffic, construction and red light cameras not only help you reach your destination quickly and efficiently but also keep you from fiddling with your smartphone while driving.
3. Turn off your text alerts automatically when on the road
In an effort to make driving safer, cellular carriers offer free apps that silence incoming texts to help you stay focused on the road. Thanks to the app’s ability to sense the vehicle’s motion, it automatically turns on when you reach a certain speed and sends an auto-reply letting those texting you know that you’re unavailable at the moment. The app turns off when the car stops so you can safely text the person back when your vehicle is parked.
Even though you may be a master of no texting while driving, taking additional steps to prevent other distractions while behind the wheel is important. Fortunately, most of these strategies don’t cost anything. Instead, they just require being conscious of our behaviors and, when necessary, taking steps to eliminate them in order to stay safe on the road.