There’s a myriad of ways to be distracted while driving, including:
- Talking on the phone
- Singing loudly and proudly to a favorite song
- Eating food
- Reading the newspaper (yes, I’ve seen this!)
- Adjusting the heat/AC/sound system/navigation
- Trying to make the kids behave in the back seat
- Applying lipstick, eyeliner or other makeup
- Brushing hair and putting it into a ponytail (at highway speeds)
- Shaving with an electric razor (been there, seen that)
- Gawking at the scene of an accident
- Checking out an attractive person walking down the sidewalk
- Trying to reach the quarter you dropped between the seat and center console because you need it for an automated toll booth
- Talking with the passengers in your vehicle
Any of the above can lead to catastrophic results: in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and another 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While texting is among the leading causes of distracted driving, there’s another leading reason for distracted driving accidents that may just surprise you: talking to another person in your vehicle. This is particularly true for teen drivers, where other teen passengers actually cause more distractions for the driver than texting or cell phone use.
So how can you help make sure that whomever is driving the vehicle your riding in isn’t distracted? Here are some tips that will make you a better passenger, and also a better driver.
- Always wear your seat belt, no matter where you sit in the car. If the driver has to make an emergency maneuver or hit the brakes suddenly and you’re not wearing your seatbelt, you could be thrown into the driver, hampering their ability to control the car and possibly leading to serious injuries for both of you. Plus, you’ll greatly increase your odds of avoiding serious injury in an accident.
Keep It To Yourself
- It’s fine to keep yourself occupied on your phone while riding in a vehicle, but keep the volume down or wear ear buds, and don’t shove your phone in the driver’s face to show them the funny cat video that has you doubled over in the passenger seat.
Their Car, Their Rules
Drivers gets to make the rules for their passengers. If they say no music, food or beverages while they’re driving, then do as the driver says. Or walk.
Don’t Block Their View
- Make sure you’re not blocking the driver’s view. This is especially true when stopped at an intersection and the driver needs to look both ways before proceeding. Don’t lean forward to look both ways for oncoming traffic. Instead, turn your head and take a look for cross traffic, and let the driver know if you see another vehicle approaching.
- If the driver wants to send a text message to someone, tell them that you’ll gladly be the designated sender and receiver of all text messages while they’re driving.
Use Your Inside Voice
- If you must talk on the phone while riding in someone’s vehicle, don’t scream or yell at the person on the other end of the phone conversation. Use your inside voice and speak in a normal tone. The driver (and any other passengers) may not say anything, but they will secretly thank you.
No Backseat Driving
- Unless the driver is obviously lost or asks for directions, don’t be a boss and tell them where to go and which way to turn. And you don’t need to point out every little mistake they make while driving…unless you’re a driver’s ed instructor. However, if the driver is exceeding the speed limit or driving in an unsafe manner, you should definitely speak up and tell them to please stop that risky driving behavior.
Don’t Hit the Invisible Brake Pedal
- Don’t stomp on that invisible brake pedal whenever you think it’s time to slow down. And trying to make yourself smaller and bracing your hands against the dashboard isn’t going to help your driver’s confidence. Stay calm, and unless the driver scared the wits out of you simply backing out of the driveway, enjoy the ride.