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Cost of Texting While Driving by Keith Jensen

The Real Cost of Texting While Driving:
Tips on How to Avoid this Destructive Behavior

By Keith Jensen, CMO of Plymouth Rock Assurance

Distracted driving – particularly, using a cell phone while driving – has unfortunately emerged as the most dangerous habit of drivers across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 6,000 people died on the roads in 2009 at least in part because of the use of electronic devices such as smart phones and cell phones. I’ve seen this dangerous behavior first hand here in Massachusetts, where, for example, several subway trains experienced crashes as a result of conductors using their phones while operating the trains, resulting in at least one fatality and multiple injuries.

Drivers who text are distracted, slower to respond, cannot watch the road carefully and do not have full control of the vehicle. In fact, many states including my home state, Massachusetts, have passed legislation that completely bans texting while driving and eliminates all cell phone use for younger drivers. I’m glad to see that many lawmakers are more informed about the real dangers cell phone use poses to drivers, passengers and pedestrians.  Emphasis is put on safety first by passing the bill into law.

I wanted to share with you a few tips that are helpful in avoiding distracted driving behavior.  While it is imperative that you completely avoid using your cell phone while driving altogether, these tips will make you aware of the other forms of distracted driving that will remove your attention from the road.

  • Keep your phone in the back seat or in the glove compartment while you’re driving.  If your phone is out of sight (and reach), it can’t be used, but is still accessible in case of a breakdown or emergency.

  • Avoid fiddling with the controls on your car – In the split second you take your eyes off the road to change the station, or turn on the AC, you could get into an accident.  Instead, double check your temperature and radio station settings before taking the car out of park, and make sure to program your top radio stations to avoid having to search for the right channel.  Another option is to set up your iPod or CD changer to a certain playlist or disc before you begin your trip.

  • Interacting with your passengers is a huge distraction – whether they’re your kids, friends, or pets, make sure everyone’s belted in and situated before you head out.  When on the road, you don’t need to ignore them, but avoid turning to the side or behind you when in conversation.  And, if things get too rowdy in your car to ignore, pull over until the situation is resolved.

  • Check directions before you leave. Even though your phone is already in the glove box (since you’ve taken heed of the advice above), it’s still tempting to pull it out when you’re feeling lost.  But doing that, and even checking directions on a print out, takes precious seconds during which you’re not as alert.  Be sure to plan your route beforehand, or designate a passenger as the navigator, that way you cannot only be confident behind the wheel but still pay attention to other cars and road signs.

  • Turn to technology.  Did you know that there are mobile applications available that will disable phone use when a vehicle is motion?  This is a great option particularly for parents who are working to instill responsible driving behavior in their teenagers.

While it will take a conscious effort to avoid distracted driving completely, doing so will make a big difference in keeping you, your passengers and other drivers safe on the roads.  Enjoy the drive, and enjoy your cell phone later!