Avoid distracted driving while using your mobile map (GPS)


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UPDATED: 2021-01-08T22:31:15.371Z
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A photo of a cell phone on the dashboard of a car with the Waze mobile app open.

Distracted Driving: we see it every day on the road and know how dangerous it is. According to NHTSA, Distracted driving can be defined as participating in any activity that diverts attention from driving, it takes away your focus from safely operating a vehicle. Cell phones have become a huge part of this, they have increasingly become a bigger distraction to drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 660,000 drivers use electronic devices while driving daily. Texting is often the first cell phone distraction that comes to mind, but one that is often overlooked is mobile map use. Drivers constantly rely on mobile maps, but they can be a big distraction, some more than others.

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This blog uncovers ways that you can limit distracted driving while using GPS applications on your phone, such as Waze and Apple Maps.

Waze is a mobile navigation app that relies on drivers reporting breakdowns, accidents, and other traffic-related issues so that other drivers may receive accurate traffic reports in real time. Waze also has the ability to alert drivers of any police officers nearby. This feature helps drivers slow down when they are approaching officers and can allow them to get away with speeding later on. The app helps to alert drivers of potential hazards on the road, while helping drivers find the quickest route to their destination. While this is helpful to people on the road, it involves people using their phones while driving, thus becoming distracted drivers.

Distracted driving and the Waze app

In recent years, distracted driving has become a hot topic. Despite lawmakers' attempts to end distracted driving by enacting laws to deter it, the CDC reports that each day in the United States, eight people are killed and over 1,000 injuries have resulted from accidents caused by distracted drivers. To read additional statistics and learn more distracted driving facts make sure to check out Distracted driving statistics: The dangers of texting while driving.

So where does this leave Waze? Since the app works when drivers report hazards on the roads, people must submit updates as they are driving. To submit an update in Waze, you can tap the icon and select the type of report you want to file. However, this can be distracting and dangerous, as you shouldn't take your eyes off the road.

As a result, Waze took feedback from its users and created the "OK Waze" command for drivers. Waze implemented the Talk to Waze feature, allowing people to submit reports via voice control. However, in recent months, Waze removed this feature and replaced it with Google Assistant.

The Google Assistant implementation in the Waze app allows drivers to say similar commands to what they could do with the Talk to Waze feature. Now, drivers can say “Ok Google” while in the Waze app to activate voice commands that can fall into the following categories:

  • Driving directions,
  • Reporting accidents and road hazards,
  • Change routes,
  • Find destinations,
  • And more.

You can visit Google’s Waze Support page for more information and for help with enabling the feature in the Waze app.

If you plan to use Waze for navigation, opt for the safest way to do so and set up Google Assistant. Distracted driving is a serious issue and almost anything can be a dangerous distraction for a driver. While navigation is an essential thing to get you from point A to point B, you should always proceed with extra caution while using it by making sure you keep your hands free from distraction and eyes on the road.

Use voice commands on other GPS apps, when available

If you use a different GPS app other than Waze, there are ways to use your GPS safely while driving. Always try to avoid interacting with your phone while driving. Other GPS mobile applications may offer similar functions that allow you to use voice commands rather than tapping and typing on your phone, in order to keep your eyes safely on the road.

For instance, if you use Apple Maps, you can enable Siri so that you can say “Hey Siri” to your phone and you can ask Siri to search for directions to a destination. Be sure to check with your app’s features if you use one that has not been named and utilize voice commands while driving.

However, keep in mind that just because you are not using your hands to navigate your device, it does not mean that is fully safe. This still can cause distractions as your mind is somewhere else. Research from AAA found that drivers who used voice-based GPS features were still distracted both visually and mentally for more than 40 seconds. They even equated setting up navigation with this to be the same as sending a text message. Although it can be beneficial to use the voice controls on your devices, they can still cause some distractions and lead to accidents.

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Tips on how to use GPS devices safely while driving

Using a GPS is an essential part of driving today, but there are things you can do to make sure you’re using it safely. Use the following tips before using your GPS:

  • Familiarize yourself with directions before you start driving: Something that is often overlooked as we seem to always be on the go and running late, is to try and look at the directions before you leave on your trip. While you won't be able to necessarily fully memorize the directions you can familiarize yourself with them and the area where you are going. This allows you to have some idea of where you might be going and what to look for when you are driving there as opposed to going in with no knowledge at all.
  • Start the route on your GPS before you begin driving: An important driving tip is to make sure you are already all set before you shift the car into drive. Make sure the directions are set up in the device and that they are ready to go so you do not have to touch the device again while on the road.
  • Pull over or use voice commands if you need to adjust your GPS directions: Sometimes things happen and you might need to adjust something on your phone maps while you’re driving. In this instance you should pull over if it is safe to do so or use voice commands mentioned earlier in this article..
  • Keep your radio at a reasonable level and make sure GPS volume is on: You may want to listen to music when we are driving while also having the GPS feature on. You must remember that the GPS will give directions quite often and you don’t want to miss what the device is saying as this could cause you to go the wrong way, miss an exit, and even cause panic. This is why keeping the radio off or on low is important. Make sure you can clearly hear the GPS directions.
  • Ask passengers to take control of the GPS: If you are traveling with other people in the car you should consider allowing them to take control of the GPS device. This can avoid distractions from your device while you are driving.
  • Turn notifications off when using your GPS to avoid distractions on your screen: If you are using a GPS app on your cell phone, you may have notifications pop up on the screen as you are driving, causing distraction.One way to fix this and prevent these distractions is to go into your phone's features and turn off notifications while you are driving and using navigational systems.
  • Avoid other distractions like eating or drinking: Avoid additional types of distracted driving while using a GPS for directions. This means no eating or drinking, at all if possible.

Apps to help prevent distracted driving

While it is best to keep all eyes and attention on the road there are certain apps that can actually help you while driving. These apps can block certain cell phone functions when being used or assist you in sending them hands free.

  • LifeSaver: A free app that automatically can tell when you are driving and stops alerting you of new messages and emails. This app goes as far as blocking your ability to access your camera when you are out on the road.
  • Drive Safe: Also works as Lifesafer. It blocks all incoming texts, notifications and even phone calls. If the driver is called more than 3 times while driving, an emergency alert is presented as it could potentially be a very important incoming call.
  • TextDrive: Another great option to help decrease your chances of distracted driving. But instead of only blocking notifications like the other apps, it automatically sends a message to the people trying to contact you and tells them you are driving and cannot speak. You can also set it up yourself to deliver a personal message.
  • Drivemode: This app allows you to use voice commands and presents oversize buttons that may make it easier when you need to navigate your phone while driving. They claim that by allowing drivers to see their music apps, navigation system and messaging all in one screen helps reduce a drivers ability to become distracted by having to search through their phones for these specific applications.

Although all these apps are very helpful for drivers on the road, they are not a perfect solution. One could still become distracted while using technology no matter how they use it. They should always be used with caution. To learn more about how distracted driving is escalating in the US, read articles on this issue on the NHTSA’s website as they focus on this deadly driving epidemic.

Distracted driving is a serious issue on the road and you should take steps to avoid your distractions and improve safety. If you use a telematics program with your car insurance company, depending on your program, you could lower your car insurance rate by avoiding distracted driving.

Do you want to see if you can lower your car insurance rate? Visit Clearsurance's car insurance rankings page to see pricing information based on how customers rate their car insurance companies for price.

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Image source: dennizn/ shutterstock.com

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