We all remember the days before cell phones and satellite radio when finding the music you wanted to listen to meant repeatedly hammering the scan button on the car stereo. Back then things seemed so simple, but that radio was a huge distraction from driving, and many of our first fender benders were proof of that. A lot of things have been added to cars in recent years to make things more convenient, and to keep our eyes on the road as much as possible, but somehow, we’re still managing to mess things up by allowing these elements to distract us while we drive.
Of course, by adding new technology to help us, they’ve also added a lot of buttons, knobs, and flashy features. Many of these items have been added to keep us safer. They’ve become part of cars as a result of wanting people to avoid excessive use of their phones, taking our hands off the wheel to find a new station or switch the track on a CD, and essentially to make everything immediately available to us without having to remove our focus from the road. However, did these items help, or have they made things worse?
Certainly, Bluetooth technology has been revolutionary in the automotive business. People are no longer spending valuable seconds with their eyes on their phones trying to locate a number, but it could be argued that the phone call itself is still a distraction, and the technology has not stopped people from texting and driving. GPS eliminated the need for bulky maps or reading directions from a handwritten sheet of paper, but the shocking number of people who watch the screen, rather than listen to the directions proves that this technology may need to be rethought.
These are simply the distractions that auto manufacturers have installed into our cars, and doesn’t include the risks we supply on our own. Why are we contributing to our own distraction by adding to the list of the biggest distractions we’ve ever faced?
- GPS Units – While most in-car GPS units and handhelds have fallen by the wayside in favor of the cell phone navigation apps, all three of these can serve as a massive distraction, especially when driving in the dark. The screens provide a glare that can mess with our visual field and serve as a huge distraction from the road ahead of us. If you can adjust the brightness of the screens, do so, and you’ll be less likely to focus on the bright light in a dark car. If you’re using your phone for navigation, make sure that the phone is mounted within your eye line.
- Phones – It seems ridiculous that we have to keep telling people that texting and driving isn’t a great idea, but apparently, it’s one of those things we’ll need to keep repeating on a daily basis. Even with Bluetooth, our phones serve as massive distractions. We hear the ding of a text message and immediately avert our eyes. On the road, a split second can be the difference between safe and unsafe. Put your phone in the glovebox for the duration of your trip, unless you’re using it for navigation, and if you are, put it on a do not disturb setting for these occasions.
- DVD Players – Yes, the invention of in-car DVD players was a life saver for many parents who dreaded car trips with their children, but they’re also a massive distraction, especially if the children have control of the volume. They make audible warnings from passengers difficult to hear, and if they’re loud, we find ourselves paying closer attention to the movie than the road ahead.
- Passengers – You can’t travel in a bubble all to yourself, so you’re going to be met with distractions from the people in your car. You can, however, ask them to respect you by not making sudden movements or shouting. Many fender-benders have happened as a result of driver’s trying to join in a rowdy conversation or even chastising the other people in the car for becoming rambunctious. Ask for your passengers’ respect and caution while you’re driving, and provide the same courtesy when you’re a passenger as well.
- Infotainment Systems – Yeah, they were put into cars so all of our favorite features were available in one particular location, but they’re terribly distracting if you’re paying attention to the latest warning popping up on the screen, or trying to figure out how to change the station on the dial. If you’re driving and a warning comes up that isn’t dire, ignore it. Forget about the radio station and focus on what you’re doing.
It’s not possible to avoid every distraction that nature and automakers throw our way, but we can help ourselves by not making it any worse. The automakers have done enough to keep us safe, but only common sense and passenger courtesy can truly protect us.