Most drivers find themselves behind the wheel so often that it starts to feel like second nature. While being comfortable driving is a good thing, it’s important not to get so comfortable that you’re easily distracted. Here’s an alarming statistic: distracted driving fatalities have surpassed those caused by impaired driving in some parts of Canada (Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2019).
Clearly, distracted driving is a big safety issue. The first step to keeping your attention on the road is focusing on the fact that you’re driving. The following tips and tricks will also help improve your focus.
Before you start the engine
Secure loose items before setting off
Loose items rolling around on the floor are a common distraction while driving. Safely stow groceries and bigger items in the trunk and smaller items in the glove compartment or console. It’s especially important to be mindful of securing items around the console and driver’s seat. If an item like a water bottle rolls under the brake pedal, the results could be fatal.
This advice goes for animals and children too. For tips on driving with pets in the car, see our blog on Transporting Your Pets Safely.
Prepare your mirrors, seat, etc.
A good rule of thumb is to get into a routine for checking and adjusting your mirrors, seat and controls when you get in the car. If you’re listening to music, queue up your playlist or find your radio station of choice before setting off.
If you’re not familiar with your route or are worried about traffic, plan your route ahead of time.
Use calming techniques if you get stressed while driving
If you’re someone who struggles with driving anxiety, there are techniques you can use to calm yourself and bring your attention back to the task at hand. For meditations and other ways to manage driving anxiety, visit our blog on Overcoming Driving Anxiety.
While you’re driving
If you need to be at your destination by a certain time, try to leave early and give yourself extra time to park so you’re not in a rush. Driving like you’re on a deadline can result in mistakes that lead to accidents.
Leave your grooming routine at home
Don’t use your drive to work as an opportunity to finish your morning grooming ritual. Even if you’re applying makeup or finishing shaving at a stoplight, you’re still taking your focus off the road. They can wait until you’re pulled over or have arrived at your destination.
Commit to distraction-free driving
Like breaking any bad habit, choosing to avoid your phone in the car takes practice. About 26% of all car crashes involve phone use, including hands-free phone use. (National Safety Council). Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 88 kph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed [CAA]. It’s just not worth the risk. In order to minimize the temptation to check your phone, turn it on silent (or flight mode) and hide it somewhere out of arm’s reach.
Other dangerous distractions include eating while driving and multitasking. Pulling over to have a bite or send a text won’t set you back much time and is well worth it.
Keep your eyes moving
Fixating your eyes on one point in the road might seem like a good way to focus, but it will actually encourage eye fatigue. To keep your mind engaged and alert, keep your eyes scanning the road looking for pedestrians and other obstacles. Keeping track of your surroundings and the vehicles around you will help you anticipate risks.
It’s always harder to focus on the road when you’re tired. Get a good night’s sleep before driving long distances and if you’re feeling drowsy, get a coffee or pull over where it’s safe and take a nap.
For more tips like this, see our blog on How to Be a Better Driver