It is common knowledge that texting or making phone calls while driving is dangerous, irresponsible and in some jurisdictions, illegal. A study conducted by the National Safety Council underscores this knowledge, revealing that 28 percent of crashes were caused by texting and cell phone use.
Cell phone distractions go beyond texting, emailing or making phone calls while on the road, though. A Florida State University study, "The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification," shows that simply seeing or hearing the sound of a notification from your cell phone causes an unsafe distraction.
Cary Stothart, Florida State University doctoral student and author of the study, believes the risks caused by cell phone notifications are severe enough for drivers to take extra steps to ensure their safety.
"Even a slight distraction can have severe, potentially life-threatening effects if that distraction occurs at the wrong time," said Stothart. "When driving, it's impossible to know when 'the wrong time' will occur. Our results suggest that it is safest for people to mute or turn off their phones and put them out of sight while driving."
"The risks caused by cell phone notifications are severe."
Mobile app industry takes notice
Distracted driving apps have been created to help combat the problem caused by cell phone use, and the Florida State University study helps legitimize the need for these apps. Auto insurance company Esurance offers a distracted driving app through its DriveSafe program to help keep teens from texting or receiving notifications while driving. Further, wireless carriers offer driving mode apps to help avoid distractions, such as the Drive First app from Sprint. Downloading one of these apps is a proactive step toward ensuring you are a safe, focused driver.
In addition to installing a driver mode app and being conscious of the effects of cell phone notifications, here are five steps drivers can take to make sure they are not distracted while on the road:
1. Turn your phone on mute or airplane mode
It's a simple yet life saving step. Keeping your phone on mute can help silence the subtle distractions of phone notifications and prevent your mind from wandering. Another option is to turn your phone on airplane mode during the duration of your route so you don't receive any calls, notifications or texts. If you have music downloaded onto your phone, you will still be able to listen to it while in airplane mode.
2. Adjust your text message settings
Most default settings on smartphones prompt your phone to light up with a dialogue box when you receive a text message, even if you have your phone on silent. You should be able to go into the message settings of your device and adjust them so you don't actually see a pop-up notification on your screen when you receive a text. Setting up your phone this way will help keep you from being tempted to text or divert your eyes from the road.
3. Schedule planned breaks
If you're on a long road trip, chances are you're going to want to check in with friends or family. Schedule planned breaks throughout your trip and set aside a few minutes to chat and respond to texts. If your loved-ones know when to expect a call from you, they won't need to worry as much.
4. Know your route ahead of time
According to CBS News, the U.S. Department of Transportation has warned that using navigational apps behind the wheel is just as dangerous as texting and driving. It is unlikely that drivers are going to stop using GPS altogether, but try and avoid looking at your phone to view maps while you're driving. To be even safer, study your route ahead of time so you will feel confident in where you are going and can avoid using apps as much as possible.
5. Have your music ready
Another source of distraction while driving is changing and picking music. Try making a playlist that will last the duration of your trip. This way, you will have no need to even touch your phone during the drive.