The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is calling attention to the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month by offering advice and insight from the elite professional truck drivers who make up ATA’s Share the Road highway safety program.
“The highway is my workplace and I know we all want to be safe while on the roads, but by far the biggest issue jeopardizing our safety is distracted driving,” said professional truck driver Eric Flick (FedEx Freight). “The good news is, correcting distracted driving is easy — you just have to put the phone down and focus on the task at hand.”
Distracted Driving Awareness Month began in 2014 when the U.S. Department of Transportation noticed an uptick in distracted driving and sought to bring awareness to the issue. Now, organizations throughout the country that are committed to improving highway safety, like ATA, recognize Distracted Driving Awareness Month as an impactful way to bring attention to this cause, especially among younger drivers.
The emergence of the cell phone over the last few decades — specifically smartphones — is one of the largest contributors to distracted driving, but there are many other factors that can pull a driver’s attention away from the road.
Share the Road professional truck drivers have seen many types of distracted driving behaviors while delivering freight across America — reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, eating lunch, and taking selfies were all mentioned — but instead of giving a list of things not to do, here’s a list of the top six ways a driver can maintain focus and get home safely.
Out of sight, out of mind. Putting your phone on silent and storing it somewhere that is not visible, but easily accessible, is the best way to avoid temptation. Everyone knows the feeling of seeing a notification and wanting to immediately respond because we all live busy lives, but in order to stay safe and keep other motorists safe, it’s best to keep your phone out of sight.
Never text and drive. There’s very few driving habits that are worse than texting and driving. Taking your eyes off the road to send a one-word text takes at least 5 seconds. If you’re going 60 mph on the highway, your vehicle travels more than the length of a football field in five seconds. Do not take those five seconds for granted because a lot can happen in that short amount of time – debris can fly into your lane, an animal can run in front of your car, or another driver might change lanes and hit the brakes.
Be prepared to drive before getting behind the wheel. Eat your granola bar at home. Save the newspaper for when you get to work. Make sure you’re fully awake by getting the proper amount of sleep the night before. There are many ways in which we can get sidetracked throughout the day and there are certainly times when we have to multitask. Driving is not one of those times.
Properly secure every item in your vehicle. You don’t want something to fall to the floor and spill while you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour down the highway. Try to suitably secure all items and definitely do not place anything on your lap or near the driver’s side floor. Items can slide under your brake pedal and prevent you from stopping if incorrectly secured.
Set a good example for young drivers and speak up when uncomfortable. Young drivers who have grown up in the age of tremendous technological advancement may not know the risks involved in distracted driving. Talk to them about why it’s important to focus and why sharing the road with other drivers is a big responsibility. Also, if you’re a passenger in a vehicle and an electronic device distracts the driver, say something or offer to type the text and send it yourself. Safety is much more important than avoiding a few minutes of awkward conversation.