10 ways to reduce distracted driving
School is out but Malta and the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining are keeping road users 'in the know' with tips and advice on how to stay safe this Summer. Look out for this weekly Road Safety highlight for more information.
The traffic during commuting hours is moving at a snail's pace so it seems like a perfect time to catch up on emails, touch up makeup, make phone calls or even eat breakfast, right? Wrong. Inattention or diverted attention is a leading cause of road crashes in Jamaica, with a staggering 3,966 collisions recorded by the Road Safety Unit within the past three decades. Many road users are unaware that their seemingly innocent multitasking may be punishable by law.
"Multitasking while driving increases the likelihood of a motor vehicle crash," said Kenute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining. "Simple measures and planning can ensure that you are alert at all times when driving, minimising the possibility of split-second life threatening mishaps."
Here are a few tips on how to minimise distracted driving:
- Use your cell phone for emergency situations only. Even the use of a hands-free device can distract you from audio-visual cues necessary to avoid accidents. Jamaican law dictates that the 'usage' of any 'electronic communication' which may foster distracted driving is strictly prohibited.
- Understand the controls in the car. Familiarise yourself with frequently used switches such as windshield wipers, windshield washers, headlights and indicators before you begin your journey. Searching for these switches while navigating traffic divides your attention which can result in a road crash. If you are unable to find these switches quickly, pull over and locate them and proceed along your journey.
- If you are drowsy, pull off the road. During a long commute home from work it seems natural to close your eyes in endless traffic but this can lead to a rear-end collision. Over the past three decades the Road Safety Unit has recorded 744 crashes caused as a result of drowsiness while driving. For your own safety, and the safety of motorists and pedestrians around you, it is always best to avoid driving when drowsy.
- Limit the number of passengers in the vehicle. Too many passengers can be a distraction. The increased conversation causes you to be less alert and may put pressure on you while driving. If you cannot avoid a full car then ensure that your passengers do not get too loud or distract you from paying full attention to the road.
- Secure children before travelling. Small children must sit in the back seat of your vehicle and wear their seatbelt at all times. In order to ensure you have a safe journey, be sure to personally fasten seatbelts around children and engage the child lock to prevent harm or injury to them.
- Organise music before hitting the road. Music often helps to kill the time during a road trip. Flipping through radio stations, or changing CDs diverts your attention from the road ahead of you. Plan ahead by selecting your preferred radio station, CD or mixtape before you begin driving, ensuring the volume is moderate. If you need to change your music during your journey, pull over, make your change and resume your journey. This is the safest way to enjoy your favourite jams while being focused on driving.
- Avoid doing your morning routine while driving. A coffee spill on your jacket can side track your day, and your vehicle. Similarly, focusing on the mirror to groom your hair or prep your face takes your mind off the road. Avoid this by starting your day earlier and getting ready at home.
- Give yourself enough time. A rushed driver is a stressed driver and this may increase the possibility of road rage leading to a road crash. Give yourself adequate time to prepare to get to your destination taking into consideration traffic, road condition and possible delays ahead.
- Never drink and drive. Alcohol is the greatest distraction that may face any driver as it changes your judgement, depth perception and affects vital motor skills required to operate the machinery. Over the past three decades the Road Safety Unit has recorded 111 crashes caused as a result of intoxicated driving.
- Decide on a designated driver before you touch the road. This will ensure the ride home is safe and if everyone is intoxicated by the end of the night, it is always best to call a cab. Leaving your car behind should be a minimal concern compared to the threat of a collision.
Drive happy and stay safe!