A new generation of technology gadgets – from Blackberries and iPods to hundred-channel satellite radio receivers – are making the driving distractions associated with cell phone conversations seem almost quaint. If driving while talking, even on a hands-free set-up, is dangerous – and a new study finds that it can be more dangerous than drunk driving – then just imagine how dangerous it is to type a text message with one hand on the wheel, or to find that one song among thousands on an iPod. If you're thinking that nobody does crazy stuffa sense of self-preservation keeps people from doing things like that, you're dead wrong. In fact, nearly 40% of the drivers polled by Autobytel say they've typed a text message while driving, 30% say they've driven while using their iPods with headphones...and an alarming 58% admit that they've taken BOTH hands off the wheel because they were fiddling with high-tech gadgets. It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked to describe their experience with in-vehicle gadgets and driver safety, 88% described it as either a moderate or serious safety threat, with 40% characterizing today's tech-distracted drivers as "out of control."
With that in mind, Autobytel's safety campaign, "Take the Pledge to Slow Down," offers five basic tips for keeping in-vehicle technology distractions to a minimum, and keeping your eyes and mind focused where they belong: On the road.
1. It's the yakkin' that's distractin':
Although hands-free cell phones keep your hands on the wheel, they don't necessarily keep your attention on the road – and there's evidence that they don't greatly reduce the risk of accident. In fact, the NHTSA finds that speech-based interaction, hands-free or not, is associated with a 30% increase in reaction time. So, the safest strategy is to always wait until you get to your destination, or pull over to a safe location, before making your calls. If you have to make an emergency call – to report an accident, drunk driver, etc. – pull over to a safe location.
2. Don't be a "tech rubberneck":
Never put yourself in a position where you'd have to bend over to reach for a call or device while driving. If you're considering a new vehicle, look for one that offers steering wheel controls for the CD player, radio, etc. If you're an incorrigible communications junkie – and there are a lot of us out there – you might consider keeping temptation out of sight (and out of mind). Put your cell phone, Treo, iPod, et. aletc.,. in your trunk, and use them to do what you have to do during stops.
3. Online and on-road don't mix:
It seems fairly obvious, but we'll say it anyway: Don't ever check or send email or surf the Internet while driving – period. Blackberries, laptops and navigation systems have all added dangerous multi-tasking to the driving experience, which completely takes the driver's eyes and attention off the road.
4. Don't fiddle on the fly:
If you have satellite radio (which features 100+ channels), set your favorite channels ahead of time. Fortunately, many navigation systems will only allow you to program destinations when the car is stopped, but if not you should make sure that you follow that policy anyway. Choose a navigation system with a user-friendly design that includes large buttons, simple and easily accessible controls, voice recognition, and clearly visible displays.
If you use an iPod (some of which now support 30,000 songs, intricate playlists, photos, and videos) be sure to program what you want to hear before you start driving, and only make changes when you stop or pull over. No matter how difficult it is to install an iPod in your vehicle, never , ever use headphones while driving – iIt's illegal and dangerous, because you won't be able to hear emergency vehicles. If you're having trouble finding or installing an effective iPod adaptor in your vehicle, visit the iPod center at Autobytel.com iPod Center for instructions and advice.
5. Take the Pledge at Autobytel.com:
Authorities are just beginning to study the effect of cutting-edge in-vehicle technology on driver distraction, accidents and fatalities – and while some states and cities have banned cell phone use while driving, further legislation is yet to come. But just because something isn't illegal yet doesn't mean it's not dangerous. Don't become a statistic that's later used to justify outlawing the use of in-vehicle technology while driving. Make a personal, predetermined decision to do the right thing NOW. If you want to put your commitment to drive safely and responsibly in writing, we encourage you to "Take the Pledge" today!