In 1970, the classic rock band The Doors sang the lyrics “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” Those are still important words of advice almost 50 years later. But, back then, the simple process of changing the 8 track tape (Google it), which was often mounted under the dash required the driver to lean over to see what they are doing. Yikes! Today, distracted diving comes in many forms. Have you ever eaten your lunch behind the wheel? Check your hair or apply makeup? Are you tempted to answer your phone when it rings or glance at an email or text message? Even checking maps or choosing a playlist count as distracted driving. Gone are the days where it was ‘cool’ to be tooling around town while chatting on your flip phone. Nowadays, those that drive with their phone up to their ear or while pounding out an email or text are seen as extremely irresponsible numbskulls motorists. Not only are you are putting yourself and others at risk, it is now against the law to simply hold a phone or other device in your hand while driving.
In addition to demerit points, the fines could be stiff. Some distracted driving situations could result in careless or dangerous driving charges if others are endangered by the distraction. These offences carry extremely heavy penalties that may include thousands of dollars in fines, jail terms in addition to the license suspensions. Sound scary? It should. Distracted driving is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle accidents in North America each year according to the RCMP. It has even been suggested that distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving.
Avoiding the temptation
These days, we feel the need to multitask – even when we are driving. However, multitasking while behind the wheel can result in a distracted driving conviction or even worse, a car accident. With technology today, there are several tools that may help you stay more focused while on the road. The iPhone (iOs11) now offers a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode. When activated, it prevents texts and other notifications from appearing on the phone screen. An automated response is sent advising that the recipient is driving and will respond when they arrive at their destination. If a driver forgets to turn on the DND mode, the phone will automatically determine that it is in a vehicle when it connects to a car via Bluetooth or when it senses movement above a certain speed. Passengers can override the system by choosing the “I’m Not Driving” option. Samsung introduced a similar feature for Android phones called “In-Traffic Reply”. Some other hands-free technology includes:
- Built-in Bluetooth – Usually comes standard with most new vehicles and allows you to connect your cell phone hands-free
- Steering wheel controls – Connects to Bluetooth devices, entertainment system, climate control, GPS and your vehicle’s voice command system.
- Voice commands and voice-to-text software – Many newer vehicles allow you to tell your vehicle to perform tasks like changing the radio station or to make a call with a press of a button. Voice-to-text and text-to-speech software allows you to send and receive text messages from your mobile phone while you drive. When you receive a text message, the system will read the message out loud and allow you to reply verbally.
- Phone-blocking apps – There are many apps available that silence incoming alerts and phone calls. Some even come with parental alerts when the app is disabled.
Even with all these new gadgets and app, turning your attention to anywhere but the road is still a form of distraction. You are better off muting your phone and tossing it in the back seat until you get to where you are going. Set your destination in the GPS, choose your favourite radio station, and adjust mirrors and seats before you hit the road.
A hard lesson
AT&T has launched campaigns to educate consumers about the dangers of distracted driving. Hopefully, these riveting videos serve as a harsh reminder to those tempted to glance at or use a mobile device while driving.