Now that cell phones have become small computers, drivers not only have to worry about texting and driving, but also the lure of watching, scrolling, and reading while driving. In 2020 alone, there were 48,537 crashes, 2,756 serious bodily injuries, and 308 fatalities due to distracted driving in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Further, there were 41 more fatalities in 2020 than in the previous year.
The Florida Department of Transportation defines “distracted driving” as anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of operating a motor vehicle. Three types of distracted driving are listed on the FDOT website. They are manual, visual, and cognitive. When a driver takes their hands off the steering wheel then the act is said to be a manual distraction. A visual distraction occurs when the driver takes their eyes off the road, and a cognitive distraction is when the driver’s mind is not on the act of driving but said to be elsewhere. When the driver of a motor vehicle is using a smartphone, it may be argued that they are engaging in all three forms of distraction at once.
As tempting as reaching for a cell phone while driving may be, there are ways to reduce the risk of cell phone use by following a few simple tips.
Pull-Over Before Picking Up
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that when an individual takes their eyes off the road for five seconds, driving at fifty-five miles per hour, it’s the same as if that person drove the length of a football field with their eyes closed. If an individual needs to use their phone for any reason while driving, they should pull off to the side of the road or take advantage of one of Florida’s “phone safe zones” when commuting on the highway. In an effort to overcome the challenges of distracted driving, the Florida Department of Transportation in partnership with Geico Insurance designated sixty-four rest areas, welcome centers, and service plazas as “phone safe zones” to encourage motorists to pull over before texting, calling, or opening an application on their phones.
Mount A Cell Phone At Eye-Level
An increasing number of drivers use mobile applications to navigate while driving. Although most of these applications do an excellent job of guiding motorists through voice cues, a driver may still need to glance at the mobile map to ensure they are on the right path. A phone mounted at eye level will allow a driver to take a quick glance at their phone while continuing to be aware of their surroundings, thus eliminating the need to look down and take their eyes completely off the road. It is also important to note that an address should be inputted into the navigation system prior to embarking on the road.
Use “Do Not Disturb Mode”
Before heading on to the road, drivers should take a moment to click the “do not disturb” setting on their phones. The “do not disturb” setting on many cell phones today may also allow a user to send an automatic reply to callers and texters while they are driving. An automated message to consider may be “I am driving and cannot respond to your call/text at the moment, but I will be sure to get back to you once I reach my destination. Thank you.” Depending on a phone’s capabilities, a cell phone owner may also be able to limit the number of calls and messages that come through and mute application notifications while they are driving.
Choose Playlists or Podcasts Before Heading Out
With streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music more readily available than ever, many drivers are looking to listen to their favorite music or podcasts while driving, especially during longer trips. If a driver has a particular playlist or podcast they would like to hear, they should take a moment to load it on their preferred application and make sure it is playing properly before leaving the driveway. This will ensure that they are not fumbling with their phone, trying to find the right channel or list, while driving.
Eyes Up, Phones Down
Five seconds is all it takes for a devastating accident to occur. This year, we want drivers to keep themselves and their families safe by keeping their ‘eyes up and phones down’ while on the road. At Panter, Panter & Sampedro, we strive to help keep our communities safe by being a resource and hope individuals will employ these tips. We are a leading personal injury law firm dedicated to protecting Florida’s families. Please contact us at (305) 662-6178 for a free consultation.