Safety Tips to Avoid Texting while Driving

There is a growing awareness of the dangers of texting while driving, but that has not done much to dissuade drivers from indulging. Everyone seems to know it’s dangerous, but few people seem to think it’s dangerous when they do it. In a 2012 survey, the NHTSA found that 94% of drivers support laws banning texting while driving, but 14% of respondents admitted to reading texts or emails while driving. A 2011 Harris Poll showed that, despite the clear risks, nearly half of drivers under 35 who own cell phones text while driving.  Below are some strategies to become part of the safer half of that statistic.

Safe driving tips

  • Make a habit of thinking about what calls or texts you need to send before you begin your trip. Before you start the car, take a moment to think about what information you might need during the trip. For instance, program your GPS at the outset, rather than fiddling with it during the drive. Make that call to ask your mom a question before you’re on the road. Text your friend that vital piece of gossip, then put away the phone.
  • The idea of a designated driver has caught on for drunk driving, and choosing a substitute can be just as useful for distracted driving. Select a friend to be your designated texter while you’re behind the wheel.
  • Stow your phone somewhere you can’t peek at it. Try putting it in the glove compartment (lock it if you must) or inside a purse in the back seat.
  • Silence notifications that tempt you to check your phone.
  • Investigate apps that will help boost your willpower. There are several types of apps on the market, some of them free, that allow you to block incoming messages or send automatic responses to let your friends know you’re driving.
  • Practice patience. Consider whether it’s worth risking your safety—and that of others in your car and on the road—to read a text while driving. Then wait until you’ve reached your destination.
  • Make a promise. If you are a person of your word, consider signing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s pledge against distracted driving. Picturing your name on the pledge could help you keep your thumbs off the phone.
  • If you absolutely cannot wait, pull over when you can do so safely. Swerving to the side of a busy highway is never a good option, of course. If you are driving on a road with safe places to pull over, use them to stop and text.

Lawmakers are taking notice of the seriousness and prevalence of texting while driving, and the law is starting to catch up with the risks of new technology. Although there is no federal law banning the practice, 41 states and the District of Columbia have laws against texting while driving. In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles or driving for government business. This spate of new laws means teen drivers are not only risking their safety, but also risking a ticket, higher insurance premiums, and some serious explaining to do when they text behind the wheel.

--Liz Soltan