Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency reports that there were 3,331 fatalities involving a distracted driver in 2011 — that’s up from 3,267 the year before.
So, what exactly is distracted driving? And how can you minimize it during a long-distance move?
Three Types of Driving Distractions
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the task of driving. It might be a physical distraction that prompts you to take your hands off the wheel; a visual distraction that spurs you to take your eyes off the road; or a cognitive distraction that causes you to take your mind off of driving.
Texting is probably what first comes to mind for most people (likely the result of so many public awareness campaigns). And, rightly so. According to the DOT, texting is the most alarming driving distraction because it requires physical, visual and cognitive attention from the driver.
But there are certainly other driving distractions that can divert your attention from the road — and they can be even more dangerous activities when you’re driving on unfamiliar roads and highways:
- Using a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Using a navigation system
- Adjusting a radio or other sound system
Some of these activities may even be illegal while driving in certain states; check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database of distracted driving state laws — particularly if you’ll be crossing state lines.
Minimize Distractions During a Long-Distance Move
If you’re not used to driving a truck rental or towing a trailer, it can certainly add to the stress of a move. Here are some tips to minimize distractions on your long-distance drive, so you can arrive safely on the other side:
- Get familiar with the vehicle. You’ll need heightened self-awareness about the additional weight, height and maneuvering capabilities of the vehicle you’ll be driving. Get familiar with all the controls, and go for a test ride before setting off. Make note of things like the vehicle height (so you know proper clearances) and the handling of the vehicle (because you may need to account for wider turns, for instance).
- Set coordinates before you take off. Watch weather reports before you set out to make sure the roads will be safe. If you’re using a GPS system to navigate the move, be sure to set the coordinates before you start driving. The same goes for music or climate controls. However, you should likely avoid cruise control because you want to keep your mind and your body actively engaged in the activity of driving.
- Arrange for a co-pilot. Having a companion along for the trip can be helpful. You can take turns driving, and you also have someone who can take responsibility for navigation or any other potentially distracting tasks while you keep your attention on the road.
- Take frequent breaks. Many safety officials suggest breaking up the trip. The Michigan State Police, for instance, suggest a rest break every 100 miles. It’s possible that driving a moving truck or other large vehicle can present a greater sense of stress and strain, and that may require you to make more frequent stops.
- Drive during daylight. Get plenty of rest in the days leading up to your big move, and plan to drive during the times when you’d normally be awake. Arrange for overnight accommodations if your trip is scheduled to go long; avoid driving late into the night, when drowsiness can set in or when the glare of lights can be distracting.
There are countless distractions to contend with any time you get behind the wheel, but it’s crucial that keep the dangers of distracted driving in mind when you’re planning to be on the road for an extended period.
That way, you’ll be sure to arrive safely at your destination and get right to the fun of settling into your new place.
This post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life