I know it sounds a little counter-intuitive to say that I use technology to cut down on distracted driving, but as a busy mom and small business owner, I have had to get creative to figure out how to spend such a large part of my day in the car while still managing to communicate with my family and team and drive safely. I’ve discovered some essential technology tools that have become crucial to staying in touch while still keeping my focus on the road.
**NOTE: The following ideas are specifically for iPhone, as that is what I am familiar with and what I use.
Five Ways to use Technology to Limit Distracted Driving
Common sense tells us that the more distractions we have while driving, the greater the likelihood of an accident. When you add in kids who need snacks, pacifiers, sippy cups, that exact episode of Paw Patrol on repeat on the entertainment system, it get even tougher. My kids are older now, so we deal with things like intense “Slug Bug” punches, yelling about someone “looking at me” or the entire cup of lemonade that I just handed back in the drive thru line being dropped all over the place.
In addition to being a busy mom of kids who need to be driven all over kingdom come on a daily basis, I am the owner of a small business and my team and I are constantly trying to stay in touch to brainstorm ideas, solve problems, execute projects, and more. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t replied to an email or two at a red light in my day.
Needless to say, distracted driving is a real challenge for me and I have found FIVE ways to use my technology to actually help me curb the distractions so I can focus on the road and keep my family safe while also not dropping the communication ball.
1. Set the Do Not Disturb to Auto-Enable
According to the National Safety Council, 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds, which correlates to a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road. Long story short, texting is a big thing I try to avoid when driving, but I need the temptation to be taken away from me. I have my iPhone set up so that it senses that I am driving and then auto-enables the Do Not Disturb feature so when someone texts me, they get the following message:
I don’t get the notification and my phone won’t even let me get past the lock screen without giving my access code, so it creates a great barrier that reminds me I need to focus on the road if I try to check my texts. This can be set up easily in your Settings > Do Not Disturb > Activate (set to Automatically). You can also edit the auto-reply it will send if you prefer as well as to whom the response is sent. Please note, this is for iPhone and I’m unfamiliar if there is a similar process for other smartphones.
2. Utilize an Apple Watch
Hear me out, but since I took the plunge and got an Apple Watch, my screen time on my actual phone has actually decreased because I am able to respond to quick texts and things without being tempted to click on Facebook, Instagram, etc. This really comes in handy when driving! With my Do Not Disturb auto-enabled on my phone, it applies to my watch as well and I won’t get the notification buzz that it typically uses. I will glance at my watch at a red light, note that I have a text, and can tap the button and then dictate a response using my voice with my watch held up to my face in basically one swift movement, all without taking my eyes off the road for a moment.
3. Use the Marco Polo app for Video Chatting
It’s crucial to note that I have a mount installed in my van so my phone is hanging out near the radio controls and I’m totally hands-free with this one. As I mentioned, I have a lot of on-going conversations with my team for work that start in text message and end up switching to Marco Polo once I’m in the car. I put my phone in its holder, enable the Do Not Disturb so I don’t get any other notifications while I am driving, and launch the Marco Polo app before I even put the car in gear so I can tap one button and start talking while the video is recorded and broadcast to the person I am talking to. This has been so helpful in staying in touch with my team as well as friends while not taking any attention away from the road.
4. Bluetooth is Your Friend
I drive a 2005 Toyota Sienna whose sliding doors don’t even open the way they are supposed to when you push the buttons. I have no blind spot sensors, backup camera, or navigation system. It has a cassette player. Needless to say, there is no Bluetooth capability in my vehicle, but I have ridden in enough of my friends’ vehicles to know that Bluetooth is incredibly common now so there’s really no excuse not to link your phone to your car’s system so you can answer calls without ever taking your eyes off the road. No Bluetooth like me? Try some wireless earbuds so you can connect with your phone and give voice commands but still hear everything happening around you.
5. Put Your Phone in the Glovebox
It’s a simple way to remove the temptation to mess with your phone while you’re driving and sends a clear and visible message to your kids that behind the wheel is no time to be posting selfies, sharing Instagram Stories, or replying to texts. Nothing is ever worth driving distracted and putting your family in danger.
At the end of the day, we as parents need to set the example to our kids (who are future drivers, remember!) that there is literally no social media post, phone call, text message or any other thing on our phone that is ever more important than driving safely. If there is a matter that requires your full attention, pull over safely and put your vehicle in park before you grab your phone. We owe it to our families and our fellow drivers to be as safe as possible behind the wheel.