Staying Safe When Driving

You know the temptation: You’re driving in your car when you hear the text message or email chime. If you’re lucky enough to have a car with Bluetooth functionality that is fully compatible with your device, your car might actually be able to read the email or text to you using a speech-to-text type program. But most of us don’t have that going for us, so we’re tempted to just take a look at the phone. After all, we reason, before all the laws they started passing about using your phone while driving, people used to drive around with their phone to their heads, or making text messages using the old twelve-key method, so as long as we don’t get caught, it should be possible to use our devices even when we’re driving without difficulty, right? Just be careful and you should be okay, right? Well, no. You can’t safely use your device and also drive.

Not too long ago, a story made national news when a guy was in a horrible car accident while using his favorite porn app. He was trying to do this while driving a car, and as you can imagine, it didn’t end well. We all love our devices and we have embraced the mobile lifestyle, but driving and your mobile device simply don’t mix, at least when it comes to non-hands-free options. Reading your device’s screen is definitely something you should not be doing behind the wheel. Follow these tips, therefore, for safe use of your device when you’re in your car.

First of all, you need to be using your phone on hands free when you are in the car. Modern cars have built-in Bluetooth functionality, but older cars don’t. Spend the money to get a good Bluetooth headset or even just a wired set of earbuds with a microphone… whatever it takes to let you talk on the phone without using your hands. This makes for much safer driving. Also, when you absolutely must focus, consider waiting to have those phone calls for later. We’ve all experienced what it’s like to be talking on the phone and miss our exit as a result. When you are having conversations with people, you’re not as focused as when you are paying attention to the road.

Most mobile devices and phones have safety settings and “I’m Away” notifications that you can activate when you’re driving, or which will automatically sense the rapid position change of the device when you are traveling at road speeds. You should consider using these and downloading the appropriate apps if necessary. That way, when someone texts you while you are driving, they will automatically get a notification that says something like, “I’m driving and can’t respond right now, but I’ll write back as soon as I can.” Some of the safety settings and apps actually lock out your text messaging and related apps, too, so that you simply can’t use those functions when you are driving. This is safer and prevents you from feeling tempted to take just one little peek at your phone’s screen while you are driving (which can have disastrous results if it happens at the wrong time). It’s also a good idea to make sure your family, friends, and coworkers know you don’t answer your text messages when you are driving, so they don’t expect an immediate reply. A lot of times, we feel compelled to reply because we know our friends, family, or colleagues expect us to write back right away. Managing expectations helps you to feel free to ignore a message until it is safe for you to answer it.

Of course, this brings us to the most important safety feature for your mobile device, and that is your own discipline. The one person who has the most control over how you use your mobile device is… you. When you are driving, resist the temptation to sneak looks at your device. Keep it tucked away securely, so you don’t have to worry about it, and even better, keep it somewhere that you can’t hear or see it unless you get an emergency phone call. The less you deal with your device in the car, the better off you will be. You can program hot keys and shortcuts all you want, but fundamentally, you should not be using your device when you are operating a motor vehicle. That’s the only way to stay safe behind the wheel.