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How Not To Use Your Phone In Your Car

Don’t stop reading and decide that this post isn’t relevant to you because you’re not one of those social media-obsessed millennials. The fact is that it’s not just teens and twenty-year-olds that get distracted by that beeping phone when they ought to be concentrating on their driving.  The problem seems to be common to all age groups. In the US (and possibly also here in Australia), it’s busy middle-aged people who are the most likely to be busted using their phones illegally while driving.

You’re going to have to break yourself of that habit of just taking a quick look at your phone to see what it’s notifying you about.  You know that it’s not safe and you know that the potential consequences go way beyond just getting busted and slapped with a fine.  To help you kick the habit, here’s a few things you could try to help you get out of the habit of checking texts, posts and calls while you’re driving.

(1) Analyse your excuses. Ask yourself why you feel that (a) you need to take a look at your phone right now and (b) why the law (yes, the law) about not looking at your phone when you’re driving applies to you.  Perhaps some of these sound familiar…

  • It could be important/urgent.
  • I’m a good/experienced driver and I know what I’m doing, not like those teenagers who are always on their phones.
  • The road’s not that busy right now.
  • I could miss out on bagging that new client/job/contract.
  • I’m only taking a quick look to see who it’s from.
  • I was at a red light so it’s OK.
  • I was just looking at the time.
  • I’m just looking at a photo.
  • I’m just taking a photo.
  • I’m perfectly capable of multitasking.
  • I’m trying to identify the song on the radio with the Shazam app.
  • I can text without looking at the keys/screen.

The cops have heard them all before…

Honestly, there isn’t a text, post or call that isn’t so urgent that it can’t wait 10 seconds while you find a place to pull over safely.  Yes, even that call that you need to make to secure that business deal – and if you were in the middle of a conversation that important, you shouldn’t have got behind the wheel in the first place.  The same goes for the text or call to the family or the boss to say that you’re running late – a few seconds later won’t make that much difference to them or you, but an accident while driving distracted will make a huge difference.

(2) Go cold turkey. As part of your pre-driving routine (closing the door, adjusting your seat if needed, putting on your seatbelt, starting the engine), either switch your phone off or put it in the back seat on the passenger side where you can’t reach it. Then you’ll either not know that you’re being notified or you’ll hear the beep but not be able to do anything about it until you can stop and reach the phone.  In the case of being able to hear the notification, you will probably find that the urge to respond instantly will pass after a few seconds, or at least a few minutes.

(3) Get an app. There are quite a few apps on the market that will autorespond for you if someone tries texting or calling while you’re driving. OK, you have to activate the app but this can easily become part of your pre-driving routine.  These apps might be marketed at teens and the parents of teens, but they work for everybody, just like the laws of the land and the laws of physics.

(4) Mute it. If you can’t hear the notification, you won’t be tempted to respond when you shouldn’t.  So mute your phone and don’t even have it on vibrate.

(5) Go offline. An awful lot of beeps and pings your phone makes are notifications from social media and emails.  The trouble with quite a few phones (at least it’s the case with mine) is that the notification for a text is the same as a notification for an email or an update.  Avoid quite a lot of temptations by going offline.

(6) Send a text before you drive.  Most of the texts and calls you receive are likely to be from your most important five contacts (probably family members, best friends and immediate work contacts).  Send them a group text telling them that you’re about to start driving (and maybe about how long you’ll be on the road) and they probably won’t send you anything for that period.  Again, this will dramatically cut down on the notifications tempting you.

(7) Enlist a passenger.  It’s kind of like the years B.C. (Before Cellphones) when the person in the front passenger seat had the job of reading the map for the driver. In this case, the front passenger becomes the official communications officer who will check the phone for you and tell you who it’s from, then (if necessary) opening the message and reading it out, and maybe typing out the reply you dictate.  Checking the identity of the sender before opening the message is a smart move if you and your significant other are in the habit of sending each other raunchy texts so your 10-year-old or your co-worker doesn’t suddenly end up being on the receiving end of way too much information.

Come on now – no more excuses!  Which of these steps are you going to try?

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