It’s 5:15 am and the first round of alarm clock sirens feel it’s necessary to come out in full blast volume mode. After aggressively pushing snooze for the first of many more times to come, I dig my face back into my pillow.

I am trying to drown out the P90x DVD calling my name from downstairs telling me it’s time to get the day started.

Side note — Tony Horton is an amazing athlete but there is something about him prior to 6 am that makes me want to shake the TV SCREEN a little. Okay, rant over.

After the morning of kids, breakfast, coffee making, brief email checking, and scurrying out the door, I finally enter my vehicle to head to the office. I push the button and back out of the garage and for my 20 minute drive to the office.

I am free.

I then instantly remember that my drive to the office is far from “peaceful“.

This is my 15-20 minute window where I am physically not attached to a desk, one of my 4 children, or dare I say it, a prisoner to the must-do’s of the day. But like so many others I am trying to accomplish so many things in that drive that most days I can’t even remember how I got to work.

You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the fog you drive in when your mind is elsewhere. This is what I call the distracted driving fog. 

*Fun Fact- I made that term up and now it’s up to you all to make it an official social media term… and go*

See, when most people think of distracted driving they immediately go to texting while driving. While this is among the top distractions in a vehicle, I am going to cover some other distractions while in a vehicle and how these minor ones could not only be affecting your ability to safely drive but also cause a detriment to your car insurance rates in Arizona.

I want to make sure that by the end of this article you know… we all have done it, some of us more than others (she says with a finger pointed to herself), and how to make sight adjustments in your driving to make sure you are helping yourself keep your insurance rates down.

Meet BAG…

Photo Credit: Dagne and Dover Legend Tote

No seriously, that is her name.

Anyone who has ever met me knows I have a love affair with beautiful, functionally large, and, um, overly expensive handbags. Being a business owner I carry my life in my bag and often at times it weighs as much as a tiny human.

So imagine this… I am cruising right along in a construction area in Tucson (if you are from here I don’t need to go any further at the level in which we are always under construction) and the lady in front of me slams on her breaks.

Without even thinking two things happen in my car.

  1. My coffee with no lid tips over- God forbid I get a real travel mug and use it so as to just go one day without having to worry about spilling coffee in my car.
  2. BAG GOES FLYING (worst thing ever)

That’s right. My BAG, cell phone, Macbook (because it should be nestled tightly inside but we all know it’s not), and all my 54 lipsticks goes flying. I barely miss the bumper in front of me and have a moment —

Erin for the love of all that is holy pay attention

Women… if you say you haven’t done this- you are liars

Or worse… we stick our arms out to the side to protect our bags like precious children, thus taking both hands off the wheel.

Either way it’s a whole room full of Red Sirens going off. In the year 2010, according to Brewer Law Offices, rear end collisions accounted for over 46 % of ALL car crashes in Arizona. Think about that.

Sure we can give some cushion there like a 5-10% cut for the people who swear the guy in front of him was actually at fault, but the reality of a rear end collision is it’s normally due to the person simply just not paying attention.

Here are a few things that have been recommended to me while writing this article on how to prevent the BAG LAUNCHING from turning into a rear end collision.

  • Use that seatbelt in the front to strap in your cargo. This will help with shifting and prevent launching of items.
  • Make sure all travel drink cups have lids and actually do fit into your drink holder. This seems silly but cup holders “standard” sizes might not fit your jumbo size YETI MUG you just got for Christmas.
  • Keep items out of your lap while driving. Instinctively you will reach for them in a sudden stop.

Meet Samantha Shea…

For as long as I can remember one memory always sticks out when driving in the vehicle with my mother. Brace yourselves parents… I’m sure I am the only one this has ever happened to.

My sweet and innocent sister and myself are sitting in the back seat of the car, simply talking about math problems or homework I am sure, and out of no one my Mom while driving with one hand takes her other hand behind her seat like a contortionist in attempt to smack our legs.

Not buying it? Ok fine… per usual we were acting like fools in the back seat and Mom was trying to make sure she might be in the front seat but she is never too far to keep us in check.

Parents… if you say you haven’t done it, either you’re lying or it’s coming next week. Wait for it.

My daughter Samantha Shea among all other small people act as another major distraction while driving in a vehicle (you can learn a little more about my “battle picking” in my personal blog integrityinheels.com.)

Between requesting endless amounts of fruit snacks, water, and catapulting her toys it is a wonder that I haven’t run off the road by now. Being a parent in a vehicle is both stressful and distracting.

Wrap your head around this for a moment. How many of our kids are actually “paying attention” while we are driving?

We live in a society that tells our kids they have to be entertained. So it is no wonder that the want in a vehicle is no different.

In reading an article on The Mad Mommy, I couldn’t help but have an aha moment as to why it is so imperative we nip this in the butt now.

When you stop to consider that the majority of North American kids who perish in accidents do so in motor vehicle mishaps, you come to realize the necessity of always driving without distraction. It goes deeper than that, however. The truth of the matter is that if parents and caregivers teach young children the right way to behave as passengers, the likelier they are to adopt safe driving skills when they’re old enough -and mature enough- to get a driving license of their own.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Here are just a few tips on how to help your version of Samantha Shea learn how to become a responsible driver herself with good habits now.

  • Limit the “technology use” for short road trips. Create interactive games that require them to look outside the vehicle and pay attention. The more we teach them they need to be “entertained” by electronics when they get into a vehicle, the harder it is to break when they actually get behind the wheel.
  • *I might get stank eyes for this one* – Look into creating a no snack rule or food rule in the car. Again, long road trips might act as an exception in your household. I was always this parent before I had my irish twins but now let the Goldfish fly with the best of them. I say from experience though that snacks in the car can cause more harm than good. *Pro-Tip- closed snack containers are a must*
  • Sharing is Caring. You as the parent and driver set the tone for the atmosphere in your vehicle. If you are a road rager… you better saddle up for the little ragers in your back seat. It is a vicious circle and one that should not be ignored. Teaching your kids courteous driving habits at a young age with help keep your distraction levels down.

Everyone has met the Smart Phone…

If you are still rocking a Nokia First Edition Cell Phone, I will give you permission to skip this portion of the article. Better yet, I would encourage you never change and keep doing you.

I will go out on a limb and say

The Smartphone has single handedly changed our minds, our habits, and the way we are socially. It has destroyed social interactions while promoting a new social life based souley online.

It is also sadly, the single highest distracting in a vehicle.

In the state of Arizona there is now a ban against physically holding a cell phone in your hand while driving. There is now actively a state-wide ban as well against texting an driving. So in lamens terms… the policy in cities like Phoenix can actually pull you over for no other reason and assign you a fine for texting and driving.

But what about the handsfree version of our smart phones?

What about the fancy phone holders that attach to your windshield/dash to allow us to actually be able to Facetime, Skype, or even Facebook chat while driving? Don’t lie.. you know you’ve done it.

All these things are constant distractions to your driving. I say this boldly and with a finger pointed to myself…

Phone Abstinence while driving is the only way to guarantee you will not be ticketed or become a distracted Smart Phone Driver.

This section wouldn’t be complete without a horrific video showing the dangers of texting/distracted driving, but instead of doing that- I am going to do this instead. Remember those little distracted tiny humans we just talked about in the above section?

I will leave it there. Proactively protect them and know it only takes looking down for a second for an entire families life to be shattered.

I would encourage you if you would like to learn more about this type of distraction while driving to visit Stop the Texts:Stop the Wrecks.

So how does distracted driving effect your Arizona car insurance?

It’s no surprise that accidents cause issues for your insurance, yes? Well what about
other peoples accidents? What about other people’s driving habits?

The truth of insurance is that it is

a transfer of risk providing protection against a possible eventuality.

The eventuality might be yours, but it will always certainly be someones. When rating an insurance policy it is based on so many variables, among these are the top 5 listed below. These variables are NOT the only variables but these are the most tangible as a consumer.

  1. Age– The age of the rated driver on a policy is what tells us what risk “statistically” speaking this age range brings to the table. So those teens texting and driving and causing accidents out there… it doesn’t matter if your teen isn’t allow to have a phone in the car, the others are affecting the way yours is rated. Same with elderly drivers, women between 21-25, etc.
  2. Location– Where your vehicle is garaged matters. If there are more accidents, break ins, etc in that area than another area in Arizona- your rate is based on the statistics of that area. Specifically speaking zip code.
  3. Your driving history– I am going to make this short and sweet. If you have had tickets or accidents in the last 5 years, your rate will be higher due to you simply just showed us your hand. And hey… side note- it happens to the best of us.
  4. Vehicle Type– That brand new fancy Tesla you just bought with distraction city on the inside, welp… I have news. Costs more to replace this bumper than it would an entire 1992 Volkswagon Jetta. Ok maybe not, but you get the idea.
  5. Coverage selections– Among all the other details going into a rating on an insurance policy something alot of consumers forget is the type of coverage selected. John Jim next door might have the same car as you, same amount of drivers in his household, but everyones “statistics” are different based on their coverage selection and how they position themselves for claim protection. This is where having an independent insurance agent is imperative. Some insurance companies will actually give you a better rate for better liability coverages just simply because you are being a responsible consumer and being proactive about your insurance.

With Arizona’s new distracted driving laws in place, the best thing you can do as a consumer is realize this isn’t just about you. In fact as you can see above based on the play that statistics have on your insurance rating, it is just as much about the others around you as it is you.

So how do tackle this together?

Having information is the most powerful thing you can do in a situation like this. Consumers don’t realize that the driving of others on the road not only can put lives at stake but it can also cause minor things like increasing your insurance premium.

It is our job as residents in Arizona to combat distracted driving and to commit to being present on the road.

I challenge you to share this on your social media pages, through emails, and even encourage you to ask your friends to help combat Arizona Distracted Driving. These laws are real and so are the lives they can save.