Distracted Driving: the hidden insurance expense

texting and driving Distracted Driving: the hidden insurance expense
Technically, this guy is texting in a parking space, which is totally fine – via fishertalwar.com

Distracted driving kills thousands every year – almost 3,500 people died as a result of it in 2015 alone. While the NHTSA’s definition, which includes “fiddling with the stereo,” might be a little extreme (unless your stereo-fiddling itself is extreme, in which case send me a video), distracted driving is a serious problem. How can you combat it in the absolute easiest way?  This guide should make driving easier, safer, and more fun. 

Pay attention

Really, paying attention fixes the problem. How you force yourself to pay attention might not seem intuitive at first. Some things might work for you, some might not.

Don’t text and drive. Just don’t do it. Your life is more important than a message. No twitter, no facebook, no snaps, no insta behind the wheel. You can check your messages when you get to where you’re going, that’s why your phone saves them. Even snapchat won’t delete a snap until you’ve seen it.

Music is important, but your insurance premiums are more important, and not dying is most important. You can make not dying easy: play everything on shuffle, or use an app that plays a lot of music at once. I use Mixcloud and love it (no audio ads, just music).

Want to listen to something specific and use Android? Install Newpipe, a barebones, ad-free, free and open source Youtube player. The best part is that Newpipe includes a “play in background” feature. As long as you only poke at screens while you’re parked, you’re fine.

bmw 435i xdrive touchpad knob control Distracted Driving: the hidden insurance expense
These are probably the absolute worst ways to control your car, combining the most distracting parts of touchscreens and buttons – via canadianautoreview.ca

When I sold my Jetta in the diesel buy-back, the one thing I regretted about using the ludicrous wad of cash I was paid to buy an Outback was that the radio was controlled basically entirely by touchscreen instead of the mass of buttons and dials my Jetta used. No longer could I surf the radio without taking my eyes off the road.

You might be able to reduce distracted driving by limiting your interaction to buttons and switches. Your car might have volume controls on the steering wheel. Use those instead of taking a hand off the steering wheel. Never use a touchscreen in your car if you can help it. Touchscreens don’t provide physical feedback, requiring you to look at them to accurately use them. Buttons, dials, and switches will stay in one place, letting your eyes stay on the road while adjusting the A/C.

Distracted Driving: the hidden insurance expense
Google Now can recognize your commands at any point, just say “ok google” – via tomsguide.com
“OK Google”

Google Maps makes road trips easy. Crashing makes road trips hard. Make your road trip even easier by talking to your phone instead of poking it. Use virtual assistants like Siri or Google Now to look up directions. Or just park to search, you probably want to know which direction to turn anyway.

Whatever else you do, please don’t put on makeup while driving. This boggles my mind – why would people do this in the first place? With Birmingham roads being what they are, you’re more likely to make yourself look worse. This shouldn’t even come up, and yet nearly all the research I’ve come across calls out “grooming.”

Know the law

Texting while driving has been illegal in Alabama since 2012. That leaves a lot of other activities open to interpretation, but only if you can take a day off to prove in traffic court that “I was only emailing, Your Honor, that’s technically legal!” In the meantime, there’s a fine ranging from $25 to $75, which is cheaper than most parking tickets, but there’s also a 2-point license demerit, which is seriously irritating.

This highlights one of the greatest problems with our current legal system: people find ways to break the spirit of the law faster than the law can adapt.  We don’t even really consider why the law exists.  But institutions like UAB are beginning to understand just how huge an impact smartphones have on our tendency to walk or drive into objects.

Only dumb people drive distracted. You probably see them on the road pretty frequently: the soccer mom swerving back into the middle lane and talking on her cell phone remains a Birmingham classic. Don’t act dumb. Don’t drive distracted.

James Ozment
James Ozment

I'm a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat

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