If you’re an experienced driver and confident in your own abilities, it’s all too easy to be fooled into a false sense of security and believe that you’ll never be one of those involved in an accident. The harsh reality is though that many of those involved in crashes are actually victims of their own complacency as they don’t take into consideration a number of basic principles of road safety. With this in mind, here’s a quick refresher of five things you should never do that could divert your attention away from the road.
Using the Phone
Starting with the most notorious thing drivers can do, almost all of us certainly have been involved in a near miss because of someone being focused on their conversation and not on their fellow road users. The specific laws related to cell phones being used behind the wheel vary from state to state with Washington DC being the most high-profile to clamp down on such behavior.
Text messaging is also banned across 47 states, but many are much more lenient towards the usage of hands-free accessories, which do not impair the driver’s hands. Again, it might seem like common sense to keep your hands on the wheel (or stick if you drive a manual), yet people still make such silly errors in judgement. According to data from the National Safety Council, roughly 1.6 million crashes nationwide are caused by texting, distracting drivers from their surroundings. So please don’t have such a lapse in judgement that you become one of these statistics.
Alcohol, a second major impediment to safe driving, is another infamous cause of road accidents and deaths. Even small quantities can greatly impact your balance, reaction times and coordination, so it’s no surprise that each and every state is united in its desire to punish those caught driving while inebriated.
Aside from Utah, every state defines drunk driving as when your blood contains an alcohol level at or above 0.08%. Utah by the end of 2018 will have theirs set at 0.05%, and the punishments are severe no matter where you go. Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.04%, and individuals under the age of 21 will be charged if even the slightest traces of alcohol can be detected. The punishment you’ll receive will vary depending on each incident’s unique circumstances and ranges from a temporary driving suspension, all the way to a lengthy jail sentence if someone else is injured or killed. Intent is irrelevant in this case. Vehicular manslaughter carries with it a number of very harsh penalties.
As with alcohol, any form of intoxicant, whether legal or illegal, that affects your faculties carries with it a severe penalty and endangers all those around you. Very little if any distinction is made by the legal system if you’re under the effect of a “heavy” drug such as cocaine or a comparatively lesser one such as marijuana. Both are dangerous and grounds for severe punishment.
Drugs and driving is a particularly relevant issue among younger drivers. As of 2014 around 10 million people older than 12 admitted to having driven while under the influence of drugs. The extent to which such chemical alterations are responsible for accidents is unclear due to a couple of problems. First, currently available roadside testing equipment produces somewhat inconsistent and unreliable results. Second, alcohol is often detected alongside drugs, making determining a primary cause of a vehicle accident very difficult. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to deny that drugs pose a serious threat to drivers everywhere. And while you shouldn’t be using drugs in the first place, if this is what you choose to do, then please make sure you arrange for an alternate form of transportation.
Makeup and Grooming
While there’s nothing wrong with personal grooming, doing it mid-transit is yet another unnecessary distraction that leads to vehicle crashes. It’s all too easy to find yourself in a situation where you’re in a rush and feel that there’s no time to spruce up before leaving. However, taking those extra few grooming minutes prior to entering a vehicle are well worth, putting you in a frame of mind to focus your undivided attention on the task of driving. Whether you’re applying lipstick, painting nails, brushing hair or tending to anything else that needs touching up, it’s just another distraction that dilutes your concentration on the road and any upcoming dangers.
Typically, the penalties for driving while grooming, or worse, causing an accident due to the distraction grooming, are deliberately harsh and may depend on what exactly transpired. It’s a broad term from a legal perspective, and while perhaps not as bad as alcohol or drugs, the distraction of grooming still warrants heavy punishment. Even if your vehicle is operating while stationary and you engage in the act of grooming, this can land you in trouble with the law. Either take care of your grooming needs before or after your travels, but never while on the move.
Although not as deliberate as the other offenses mentioned in this post, driving without sufficient sleep carries with it its own set of issues. We’ve all had to make early starts or go on long drives into the night, so if you must do so, it’s vital to take regular breaks to replenish your energy.
Not only is your capacity for reacting compromised, there are more cases than you might think involving drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Around 1 in 25 drivers will fall victim to this phenomenon at some point, which is a terrifying figure given the number of vehicles on the road today. Getting your prescribed minimum of seven hours of sleep each night is critical for being alert and safe behind the wheel. Failure to follow this simple guideline could result in you being charged with a breach of various traffic laws if you’re found guilty of an at-fault crash due to drowsy driving.
If you’re looking to stay safe on the roads, then the above points outline five perils you can easily avoid at absolutely no cost. Engaging in some form of driver safety training and outfitting your vehicle or vehicles with telematics can also produce immense benefits, which combined together, gives you the best chance of having a stress- and problem-free drive. Getting behind the wheel carries some element of risk, but by following the advice above, you are well on your way to making the roads safer for all of us.
Justin is a History graduate from the University of Kent, currently writing on behalf of Truck Locator, a UK-based online marketplace of used trucks and lorries. Having a keen interest in current affairs, Justin is currently focusing on the topic of automation and the massive impact this is set to have on the world in the years to come.