We’ve discussed the fact that using your phone in the car presents risks, and that it’s vital to take personal responsibility for making phone use in the car as efficient as possible.
Well, we promised we’d go more in-depth with some tips and tools for staying safe when you bring your phone along, so here are some of our best suggestions for maximizing safety while driving with a phone!
- Keep your music comfortable, not loud. Loud audio stimulation increases response time to peripheral signals. This is an important note for any driver, but especially if you’re going to be doing any multitasking with a phone, make sure you have as few other distractions as possible.
- Don’t respond to calls or texts. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a pretty difficult impulse to resist for most people. For many people, even muting their phone’s alerts (although it’s a good start) just isn’t enough. Phone manufacturers know that your car and phone are working together more and more — as evidenced by things like Apple’s Car Play technology, which allows your phone to sync with your car’s smart controls — so companies like Apple are getting on top of safety as well, by developing new tech which will disable communications in phones moving above a certain speed.
- Use apps to keep yourself (or loved ones) in check if the phone doesn’t do the job for you on its own. There are a lot of free options out there along with paid apps, Verizon recommends a few apps to prevent texting while driving. Popular free choices include TxtShield for Android, and DriveScribe and Drivesafe.ly for all platforms. AT&T Drive Mode is an optional setting that comes standard on AT&T Android and Blackberry phones, so this is a useful choice if you have the self-control to leave it on — but a commercial app that includes a password unlock may be more useful for setting limits on, for example, teenagers.
- Keep your phone within reach if you plan to use it. One of the most distracting and dangerous things you can do is start digging for your phone in a pocket, purse, or crowded center console as soon as that ringer goes off and surprises you.
- Don’t keep it down low. If you think you need to be sneaky about using your phone in the car, you shouldn’t be doing that activity on it anyway! For those brief moments when you need to control your phone, don’t keep it in your lap or cupholder, because that takes your eyes off the road. Use a car phone mount on your dashboard or windshield so that you can look straight ahead.
- Use voice-to-text programs. These help keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Drivers in one study drifted laterally more when using manual controls than voice controls for dialing, so optimize your phone to use your voice for as many functions as possible. Voice control and transcription programs are improving all the time, so if you haven’t played with one since the technology was new, now’s a great time to change that. Here’s a list of some voice-to-text programs to check out.
- Never wear headphones; use a Bluetooth earpiece or speakerphone instead. Wearing headphones while driving is illegal many places, for good reason. Headphones not only mentally distract the driver more than many people commonly recognize, but they also prevent drivers from hearing potentially important traffic sounds, such as approaching emergency vehicles; earbuds are especially guilty of this. Instead of using a headset for phone calls, try using an earpiece so that your ears are mostly clear for other input. And don’t forget — if you put your phone on a mount in front of you so that it’s in your line of sight, it will also be conveniently located for clear speaking and listening on speakerphone.
Ultimately, the best way to drive safely is still not to use your phone in the car at all. However, for those essential functions like urgent calls, GPS, music control, and more, it’s important to reduce related risks as much as possible with tools like apps, voice-to-text programs, and dashboard or windshield phone mounts. Hopefully these tips helped you on your way to making yourself and your loved ones safer at cell phone use while driving!