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Are You a Distracted Driver?

Focusing on the road can help prevent accidents

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In many states, cell phone use is illegal while driving.

Have you ever driven drowsy? Texted while behind the wheel? Or reined in rowdy behavior from the driver’s seat, so you didn’t have to stop the church van?

If so, you’re not alone. At any given time, thousands of drivers battle distractions that threaten to take their minds off the road. Crashes involving distracted drivers kill more than 3,000 people a year in America and injure more than 300,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your ministry can help prevent crashes on church trips by educating drivers about traffic safety issues and enacting policies that promote distraction-free driving.

Defining a Distraction

Distractions include anything that pulls a person’s attention away from the primary task: driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation places them in three categories: visual, cognitive, and manual.

  • Visual distractions take your eyes off the road: Weather, dialing a cellphone, and talking to passengers behind you are common perils.
  • Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel: Eating, texting, gesturing, or reaching for something can lead to a major mishap.
  • Cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving: Drowsiness, daydreaming, deadlines, telephone conversations, conversations with other passengers, or heavy traffic can reduce concentration in a critical way.
Derail Distractions

Some of the most common distractions affecting ministry drivers can be eliminated at no cost, simply by changing a policy. Here are four common causes of accidents involving ministry vehicles and some suggestions on how to prevent them.

Issue 1: Drowsiness
Ministry drivers may be asked to drive long distances on little sleep. This is often the case with youth group outings, which might require an all-night drive to reach a destination. Many accidents involving ministry vehicles each year are caused by drowsy drivers.

The policy: Always have at least one backup driver for each vehicle.

Other good practices include:

  • Begin trips early in the day
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours to rest

Issue 2: Cellphone Use
Using a cellphone while driving is one of the most common distractions drivers face. It’s especially dangerous because it can divert someone’s attention visually, manually, and cognitively, increasing their chances of being involved in an accident. In many states, cell phone use is illegal while driving.

The policy: Require drivers to turn off or silence their cellphones while driving ministry-owned vehicles. Also, use decals or stickers to post safety warnings like these in your ministry vehicle:

  • Pull off the road to use your cellphone.
  • Ask a passenger to oversee the phone while you are driving.
  • Let incoming calls go to voicemail. Return these calls when you reach your destination.

Issue 3: Supervision from the driver’s seat

A person driving a group of young passengers might be distracted by their singing, shouting, or getting rowdy in the rear seat. This can lead the driver to take his eyes and attention off the road to address the disruptions behind him.

The policy: Always have a second adult on board to supervise passengers. This allows the driver to focus on the road; minimizing mental and visual distractions. It could also be a benefit to keep the driver’s eyes off a map, directions, or navigational device.

Issue 4: Following a Lead Vehicle

Ministry drivers have to constantly play catch-up in a situation where one or more vehicles follow a leader. It is easy to lose track of surrounding traffic when one feels the pressure of staying with the group at all costs. Many accidents and near-misses happen when traveling in a caravan.

The policy: Equip every vehicle with a capable driver and adequate directions. This way, no one is obligated to rely on those in front of them and can avoid unnecessary risks. If communication between drivers is necessary, arrange a meeting check point or let a passenger make a call on a cellphone.

Additional Resources

Distraction.gov

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention