You’re driving in an unfamiliar area and don’t fully trust that you’ll be able to find your destination. But you’ve come prepared! You open your navigation app or your vehicle’s infotainment system, type in the address, and are fastidiously following the directions.

You’re so focused on not missing a turn, in fact, that your focus on the road slips for just a moment… and when you look back up, you find yourself closing the distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead far too quickly.

Navigation tools are useful additions to a driver’s arsenal. However, it is worth remembering that these are indeed tools and not the main focus.

National Safe Driving Week is December 1 – 7 and the Canada Safety Council, in partnership with the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, want to remind you that focus on the road while behind the wheel is a must.

“It might be said that automation tools such as navigation apps in a vehicle help reduce driver anxiety and therefore can help a person focus on safe driving,” said Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council. “And while that is true, these tools can also contribute to distraction behind the wheel when not used as intended. When used as a crutch, rather than assistance, these technologies can quickly become problematic.”

Any task that takes focus off the road increases the likelihood of a collision. Property damage and increased insurance premiums, to say nothing of injury and fatality, are simply not worth the risk. Read on for tips on how to safely navigate away from distraction behind the wheel:

  • Program your navigation before departure. At 90 km/h, taking your eyes off the road for five seconds is the equivalent of traveling the full length of a standard football field. Program your destination ahead of time so it does not become an issue while on the road.
  • Get a passenger to help guide you. The auditory cues on navigation apps can be distracting. Additionally, some apps actively draw your attention to them, prompting the driver to confirm presence of law enforcement or a collision. To eliminate these distractions, ask a passenger to direct you and leave the navigation tool muted. If you do not have a passenger on board, be cognizant of where your attention is being directed and ensure that there are no competing interests to your focus on driving.
  • Leave the phone alone. The best solution, of course, is to leave your phone alone entirely while behind the wheel. Familiarize yourself with your destination ahead of time, using a tool like Google Street View. Knowing the area and directions will enable you to keep your focus entirely on the road, and to keep alert so you won’t miss your destination.

You can read more about distracted driving in our archived National Safe Driving Week campaigns, go to www.canadasafetycouncil.org