What will it take to end distracted driving?

by Bonnie Learn

Distracted driving is certainly not a new topic. There are numerous articles, videos, and public service announcements with the core message that distracted drivers substantially increase the risk of being involved in a collision.

The evening news reflects the grim tasks that emergency services personnel are faced with each time they investigate a fatal collision scene. Words such as “senseless” and “completely preventable” are common terms in the post-incident dialogue. However, statistics are not drastically improving, even with the legislative changes that have been implemented across the country.

So what will it take to create a change in attitude and behavior?

It is time to rethink the approach and put ourselves and those that we love first.

Whether you’re driving for a living, driving to commute for work or driving for pleasure, each time we take to the road we need to think of the driving task as an important task with the opportunity to achieve excellence.

By understanding the responsibilities of a driver, you are taking the first step in achieving accountability for your own driving behavior.

Consider for a moment what we do each day while driving and take a meaningful look at your own on-road performance.

Did you call someone? Did you drink a coffee or eat a sandwich? Were you changing the radio station or focusing on a GPS map? Did you miss an exit because your thoughts were elsewhere? If so, you were distracted!

Over the last 20 years, there have been countless changes to the traffic infrastructure, volume, road quality along with the technology within our vehicles.

These changes require us to constantly adapt and adjust our skills and attention in order to safely navigate.

Unfortunately, drivers lose focus every day as a result of these internal and external distractions, which are not properly managed and inhibit our ability to drive safely.

If you were to complete a survey describing the type of driver that you are, how would you rate yourself?

To test your own driving skills, consider performing a self-commentary while driving.

This process requires you to verbally explain the details of your drive. This technique will increase your awareness skills and the time you have to respond and react to potential hazards.

This powerful practice will improve basic driving abilities and ensure that focus is always placed on the task of driving. Performing the commentary while you drive will help identify behaviors that are distracting to yourself and others.

It is only when we become aware of own skills or poor driving habits that we have an opportunity to make changes and develop processes for improvement.

One effective process to consider is creating a tool kit of deliberate practices to assist with managing distracting situations. Such practices could include pre-planning your route to consider weather, traffic and road conditions as well managing your time to allow for any unexpected changes and avoid being rushed.

Understanding how personal wellness or fatigue can affect your ability to remain focused could also be helpful.

Another practice to include is considering the most responsible way to manage your electronic communication by using an automated reply setting to notify others when you’re driving or turning the device off until you arrive at you destination.

These deliberate pre-planned decisions will support your ability to manage distracting situations with confidence.

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that driving is a full-time job that requires all of our focus.

We need to look at our skills and work at becoming better and more aware drivers.

Learning to test our skills with a commentary and creating a safety tool kit we can better prepare ourselves for the many distractions while increasing our skills and awareness level.

Tomorrow before you drive, take a look at yourself as you adjust your mirrors, be reminded of how valuable you are to your family and friends. Lead by example and be willing to consider a change in behavior that may well save your life.


This month’s expert is Bonnie Learn. Bonnie is a risk services specialist and has served the trucking industry for more than 23 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a longstanding history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbins.com.

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