This is a guest post by Theodora Evans.
Distractions cause a large number of fatal accidents around the world every year. Many people admit they drive while drowsy or get distracted by mobile gadgets. There’s an urgent need to return to safe driving habits and encourage your friends, family members and coworkers to do the same. Read and share the following recommendations for distraction-free driving.
Concentrate on driving
It seems basic, but your main task as a driver is to devote your full attention to the act of driving. There are many distractions which can hinder the average driver’s journey and a recent survey conducted in the Land Down Under has shown just that. Eating food and cell phone use tops the list, and some people amazingly go as far as brushing their teeth during their commute.
The statistics on distracted driving in North America are similar, and regardless of which country you live in, distraction behind the wheel is a problem. The key to being a safer driver is to avoid distractions and fully concentrate on the drive as much as possible. If you have to use a cell phone, then you should pull over to use it. When driving, keep your focus on the road ahead and being aware of your surroundings by checking your mirrors at regular intervals. Following basic driving best practices until they become habitual will help keep the risk of incidents to a minimum.
Expect the unexpected
Adopt a defensive mindset as you drive. Be conscious of what other road users can do and be ready for any unexpected event. You should drive with the knowledge that other drivers (and pedestrians) are capable of doing anything in the blink of an eye. Be on guard to prevent their actions or reactions from causing an incident. Maintain sufficient space between your vehicle and the car in front of you.
If you are driving in winter or while it’s raining, double the buffer zone. In bad weather, normal tires can have poor grip and, unless equipped with an ABS system, could slip when you apply the brakes. While not legally enforced in all parts of the world, it is a good idea to have a set of winter tires that you can swap when the colder months arrive. These tires are often designed with specific tread patterns and compounds that aid in traction during adverse conditions and significantly reduce the chances of an accident occurring.
Keep the hunger pangs away
When you are going on a long trip, plan for your food and drinks. Eat a balanced meal with sufficient protein and healthy fats before you set out. This helps you to have stable blood glucose, which is essential for proper brain function and concentration while driving. After driving for two hours, you may start to feel hungry. Pull over at a safe place to eat and drink a healthy snack or a small meal. This will only take about 10 minutes and you will refuel your body for the rest of the trip. Always allocate time to stop and eat, rest or take calls.
Put all vital items within reach
Place items you will need within reach before you set out. Put your toll cards, toll fees, garage passes in a place where you can easily locate them as needed. Don’t leave any items hanging lose and leave them on the floor if they fall off. If you must pick them up, do so after you have pulled over safely. Secure any items that can move around while your vehicle is moving.
Don’t drive while you are tired
Tiredness and alertness don’t go together. Don’t shrug it off and say “I can cope, it’s just a few miles.” You should also beware of medications that can lead to drowsiness. Always ask a qualified health care provider if it’s safe to take a drug and still operate a vehicle. While it is not as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, drowsy driving is responsible for thousands of crashes annually.
Drive during peak energy periods
There are certain times of the day that your energy levels go up and come down. Normally, you will be at your mental peak at 9 am and 9 pm. A peak in your physical strength also occurs at 11 am and 7 pm. In contrast, the time where your energy levels are the lowest occurs between 2 am and 6 am, and between 2 pm and 5 pm. You should avoid extensive driving at these times to prevent fatigue-related crashes.
Keep kids secure and quiet
Being alert and focused should always be your top priority whilst driving. However, you’ll need to be even more vigilant when transporting your most precious cargo—your children. Depending on their age, you’ll first want to affix a children’s car seat. There are several varieties to pick from, so you’ll need to do some research in order to find the best one for you and your child.
Children can often find longer journeys to be extremely tedious so it’s important that they remain mentally occupied. Ensure that they stay buckled in their car seats all the time. Let your kids know that when they are in the car, they must not scream or fight. Give them enough snacks to keep them from distracting you when they get hungry. Crucially, no matter how unruly or attention seeking they might be, never attend to your kids while you are driving—always pull over first.
Take a power nap
If you must drive at times when your natural energy level is low, take a 15 to 20-minute nap. This can easily boost your alertness during driving. A short nap has some advantages over a long nap. It does not take much time and it reduces fatigue quickly. Unlike longer naps, short naps don’t require a long recovery time to get you back to a state of full alertness. Take advantage of short power naps to get back your mental focus without putting yourself behind schedule.
Always take a bottle of water with you on your trip. In hot weather, drinking water regularly will help to regulate your body temperature and keep you from feeling drowsy and sluggish. So make it a habit to take something to drink with you when you leave your home.
It doesn’t take much to complete every journey without incident. By avoiding common distractions, eating the right food, getting adequate sleep and observing other basic safety rules, you can maintain a level of safety behind the wheel that will keep you and others away from any potential incidents.
Theodora is a passionate blogger from Sydney and she is someone you would call an IT nerd. Also, she takes great interest in psychology and helping people deal with their mental and anxiety issues. Besides that, she loves martial arts and enjoying the nature. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.