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Let’s Make a Commitment to Safe Driving

How to avoid distractions and prevent injury

We all know it’s dangerous. We’ve all asked ourselves “How important is that text, email or notification?” Yet, we still find it difficult to look away from our devices while behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), cell phone use while driving accounts for a large number of injuries and deaths on the roads. In fact, over 2,800 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 as a result of distracted driving.

So what exactly constitutes distracted driving? NHTSA defines it as is any activity that diverts attention from driving, such as talking or texting on your phone, but also includes eating and drinking, talking to other people in your vehicle, fumbling around in the glove box – pretty much anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

NHTSA also warns that texting is the most alarming distraction. The Administration explains, “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

Joe Cargile, partner at Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren in Thomasville, Ga., urges us all to make a commitment to safe driving: “Let’s make 2021 the year we put down the phone at the wheel of the car.”

Like all things in life, prevention is a key component of developing a better habit. Take a look at these four tips to help prevent the distractions caused from your devices while driving.

1. Simply don’t text and drive. “Just put your phone in the center console as soon as you get in the car” advises Cargile. If you remove the temptation to pick up your phone in the first place, you decrease the probability that your device will lead to an accident on the road. Most messages can wait, and for the ones that can’t, find a safe spot to pull over and return the call.

2. Obey your state’s hands-free laws. In Georgia, for example, a primary enforcement law exists for using a handheld cellphone -- meaning an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld device without any other traffic offense taking place. Additionally, all drivers in the state of Georgia must adhere to the text messaging ban or can be subject to a citation. The Governors Highway Safety Association provides detailed information about State Distracted Driving Laws.

3. Install apps to help you keep your eyes on the road.

While our technology may cause the distraction, it is also adapting to help limit the distraction. Lots of safe-driving apps exist to help prevent distracted driving. Here are a few that are available on both IOS and Android devices:

· DriveMode – Once your car hits 15 mph, DriveMode silences alerts, phone calls and texts — and can send out auto-replies. Parents can sign up to receive alerts when this safe-driving app is turned off or disabled by their teenage children.

· EverDrive – Compete with others to see who can drive the safest with EverDrive. This app rates you on acceleration, braking, cornering, speed and phone use. It then gives you a trip grade to compare with others.

· LifeSaver - LifeSaver runs silently in the background then activates when you start driving. It features a portal for parents and a rewards system for drivers.

· TrueMotion Family – This app provides an overall picture of your family’s driving. Each car trip gets graded on a 100-point scale, allowing you to measure improvement over time and see how family members compare.

· TextDrive – This safe-driving app is simply an auto-responder. It sends messages to those who try to call or text you while you’re behind the wheel. You can set up an auto-text and phone call reply with a custom message, or reply using voice commands.

4. Add blue-tooth or other hands-free technology to an older model car. Do you drive a vehicle that doesn’t have built-in hands-free capabilities? Not a problem. Hands-free technology is an easy and affordable addition to your older model vehicle. A quick internet search yields dozens of options depending on your needs and budget, with some starting at just $29.99.

Cargile does foresee future regulations on cell phone companies designed to limit usage while moving and encourages everyone to make the appropriate adjustments now in order to form a good habit before more mandates are enforced.

“And remember, it’s not just about you – distracted driving hurts others,” says Cargile. “Plus, personal injury suits can be costly and take a heavy emotional and mental toll, as well. There are lots of good reasons to just put down the device and concentrate on the road.”

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