On July 30, two college football players, Texas A&M defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu, 19, and Utah defensive lineman Gaius Vaenuku, 18, were killed in a single-car accident. The former high-school teammates, along with Utah offensive tackle Siaosi Uhatafe and his family, were making a 22-hour drive back to Texas on little sleep, according to a tweet from Manukainiu before the accident. Uhatafe, the driver, was the only passenger wearing a seatbelt. The deaths of these young men, on the heels of a fatal Spanish train wreck in which the conductor was on his cell phone while driving, brings attention to the dangers of distracted driving. If you’re hitting the road this summer — or getting ready to make a long drive back to college this fall — be sure to keep your wits about you and pay attention to the surrounding hazards.
What is distracted driving?
The term distracted driving no longer pertains solely to the cliched sight of a woman applying makeup or a man attempting to shave. It now includes any minor event or action that may pull your train of thought from the road ahead and your vehicle’s surroundings. Consider, for example, that annoying song you just can’t bear to listen to one more time comes on the radio while you’re speeding down the highway. As you reach down to adjust it, you’re now technically a distracted driver according to D!straction.gov. The site reports that 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011 — a number considerably increased from the previous year. Distracted driving accounted for 10% of all injury crashes in 2011. Distracted driving is particularly prominent among 15- to 19-year-olds — largely due to a massive increase of cell phone and texting use. According to D!straction.gov, the major forms of distraction are:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
D!straction.gov calls on drivers to head to their website and “Take the pledge” to end distracted driving. Along with encouraging friends to ignore their phones while driving and being a conscientious passenger who points out if a driver is distracted, the first line of the pledge is to “Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.”
Can’t escape that urgent call? Consider getting a hands-free set to minimize your distraction — or bring along a passenger who can answer the phone for you.
Tips for safe driving
Plenty of organizations, from the government to insurance providers, are glad to offer their tips for safe driving. Nationwide recommends these “6 driving safety tips to stay protected on the road“:
- Stay focused on driving
- Practice safe driving by planning ahead and adjusting your mirrors and seat before starting your travel
- Prioritize safety by securing loose objects in the car
- Make time for driving safely by taking time to eat off the road
- Slow down — don’t speed; besides, your gas mileage will be better if you stick just shy of the speed limit
- Think safety — wear those seat belts!
The American Motor Association offers several more in-depth tips in their “Tips for safe driving.” Among them: “Never drive when you feel angry or tired. If you start to feel tired, stop your car somewhere safe. Take a break until you feel more alert.” And, of course, “Never drink and drive.”
What tips do you recommend for keeping yourself and your fellow drivers safe on the road? Tell us in the comments!