May 21st, 2020

When we think about distracted driving, many of us think about cellphones. And it’s true that texting and driving is a major cause of accidents, injuries and fatalities. Yet there are many other types of distractions as well. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is anything that takes your attention from driving.

As summer approaches, quarantine restrictions are relaxed and businesses reopen, more people will take to the road. That makes focused driving of primary importance. Grand View Health is recognizing Trauma Awareness Month by exploring some common distractions and offering tips to prevent them.

  1. Keep your eyes on the road – Whenever you look away—whether you’re talking to a friend, looking at a building or reaching for your sunglasses, cellphone, purse or wallet—you take your eyes off the road. Avoid visual distraction so your eyes don’t wander.
  2. Keep your hands on the wheel – That may seem obvious. But if you’re eating a sandwich, looking for something that fell on the floor, switching radio stations or punching coordinates into your GPS, you’re driving without both hands on the wheel. It’s called manual distraction, and it’s a potentially deadly mistake. Tip: If you must eat on the road, park while doing so.
  3. Keep your mind focused – How many times have we pulled into our driveway and can’t remember clearly how we arrived there? We may have been deep in thought about the day’s events, thinking about our family’s needs or pondering something else other than driving. This type of cognitive distraction clouds your ability to drive safely.
  4. Turn off your phone – Practicing social distancing has made many of us more digitally connected than ever. As you return to the road, take time off from your devices. While your friends and family may have become accustomed to having instant access via digital devices, calls, texts, emails and conference calls can wait until you’re off the road. Tip: If you don’t want to turn your phone off completely, set your cellphone settings to delay receiving calls and texts while you’re driving.
  5. Slow down – While total car crashes are down, state and local officials report the wide-open roads are leading to more speeding. Avoid the temptation to step on the gas. Take your time, drive the speed limit and remember, road crews have returned to highways and streets. Make sure to slow down in construction zones. It saves lives and will save you from steep fines.
  6. Care for your car – Whether you’re planning a road trip or a ride down the road, now is a good time to have your car serviced for summer, especially if it hasn’t been driven much recently. Check tire pressure, fluids, and make sure your inspection deadline hasn’t come and gone while you’ve been staying home. Cut down on allergy-related sneezing by considering a car wash to get rid of the pollen that may settled on your car and store some wipes and hand sanitizer in your vehicle to reduce infection risk.

We hope these tips and reminders will help you stay safe and distraction-free this summer.

About the author: Marie Dieter, a certified trauma nurse, is the Trauma Program Manager at Grand View Health. Grand View is home to an Emergency Department that handles about 30,000 visits annually. It’s the first ED in Pennsylvania accredited as a Geriatric Emergency Department from the American College of Emergency Physicians.