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Three fatal driving habits you can change today

August 22, 2018
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It’s 7:30 a.m. and you’ve yet to leave the house. After rushing to get the lunches packed and the kids to school, you’re frazzled and anxious about getting settled before the 8:30 a.m. meeting. A couple of rolls through the neighborhood stop signs gets you there just a minute before and you let out a big sigh of relief as you jog into the office.

This is a typical morning for many of us. We tell ourselves we’ll be better about leaving unrushed, and yet time and time again, there’s always something that gets in the way.

It’s a classic example of normalization of deviance creeping into our daily lives, a phenomenon in which an unsafe action is repeated so many times without negative consequences that we allow it to become normal. They’re simple shortcuts that become ingrained in our workplace, and despite seeming minute, they can snowball into costing companies thousands of dollars.

Unsafe driving practices are becoming the standard in our multitasking-obsessed culture, with alarming results. According to a recent study by the University of Colorado and Denver Health Medical Center, fatal car accidents rose 6.3 percent between 2014 and 2016. Whether you’re a commuter or you drive for a living, these statistics should be a wake-up call. Researchers are unsure of the cause of this dramatic surge in fatalities, but one thing’s for certain: breaking these habits and implementing simple practices into your daily commute will keep you safer.

1.    Stop texting. Now.

When you text and drive, the amount of time spent with your eyes off the road increases by 400 percent.

According to the National Safety Council, a minimum of 27 percent of car crashes in America involve drivers talking and texting on their phones. This rather normal habit is six times more likely to cause an accident than drinking and driving. Shocking, isn’t it?

Whether it’s checking a Facebook update or responding to a text from your boss, it’s ingrained in our brains to react excitably to our phone notifications, so the first step in putting down our phones is to turn off text message alerts. If you have an iPhone, you can customize the Do Not Disturb While Driving Feature so that you can still receive phone calls via your car’s Bluetooth system. For Android users, the Driving Detective app offers similar features.

Developing these habits now might not only prevent a fatal crash, but it could also save you money in the future. Allstate’s Arity unit has developed an app that tracks phone usage inside the car, rewarding safe drivers and punishing those who use their phones unsafely while driving.

2.    Relax, don’t multitask.

American culture praises multitasking for its “efficiency,” but the reality is, our
brains aren’t very good at it. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes that simply listening to music or podcasts in the car decreases attention to driving by 37 percent.

It’s a little impractical to imagine a 45-minute commute or a road trip without a great playlist, so let’s consider some other multitasking that’s easier to cut out (and more distracting than a good episode of “This American Life”).

•    Eating while driving — unwrapping a sandwich, balancing a Chipotle bowl on your lap … are your eyes on the road when you’re cleaning up that salsa spill?
•    Smoking while driving - Many smokers know the pain and panic of a dropped cigarette in the car seat. It’s not easy to stay focused when hot ash is burning through your trousers.
•    Putting on makeup while driving - It’s almost a guarantee that you’re going to poke your eye with your mascara wand when you realize you’re holding up 15 cars behind you after the light turns green.
•    Emailing while driving - In between meetings is a great time to catch up on emails … but while driving, this can lead to catastrophe. Start breaking this dangerous habit by implementing a no-email-while-driving policy in your workplace.

3. Observe the traffic laws. Really.        

It’s all too easy to make up for lost time by speeding a few extra miles per hour
or pushing to make the yellow light. But traffic laws are set up for a reason, and is shaving a few minutes off your commute really worth a ticket, or worse, an accident?

In a state such as Colorado, where more and more commuters share the road, following the laws is becoming increasingly important.

Here are a few things to remember the next time you’re feeling rushed.
•    Not all school zones have warning lights. Make sure you’re checking the local signs to avoid speeding.
•    There are a growing number of commuters who cycle to work. Double-check your blind spots when you turn to avoid a catastrophe.
•    Beware of no turn on red signs. They’re everywhere, and brushing them off is a great way to get a ticket.

Normalization of deviance is a phenomenon that creeps into everyone’s daily lives and driving is particularly susceptible — in our time-crunched culture, we tend to take as many shortcuts as we can, especially in the car. Implementing these simple habits into your daily routine will help both commuters and drivers stay safe and smart on the road.

Visit our Safety Hub for more information on safety services and training options.

Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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