Distracted driving is very common, and everywhere you look you will find drivers talking on their cell phone, or listening to music, or eating and drinking while driving. Any activity that takes your mind away from the task at hand is perilous not just to the driver, but the co-passengers and to other cars on the road as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies show that distracted driving is the primary cause for accidents in America. Distractions can be of three types: manual (when the driver's hands are not on the steering wheel), visual (when his eyes are off the road), and cognitive (the driver's mind is off the road).
Common Distractions During Driving
- Texting and talking on the cell phone
- Checking voice mail
- Applying makeup
- Reading a map
- Using the laptop to check emails
- Diverting your attention to admire a scenic view, watching a billboard or an accident scene and reading street names
- Trying to reach for an object placed inside the car
How to Avoid Distractions while Driving
- Cell phone use is the leading cause of distraction. Do not use the cell phone while driving. Finish whatever calls you want to make before you start. If the phone rings while driving, let it reach the voice mail. If it's an urgent call and you must speak, pull over to a safe spot and make the call. Some drivers use hands-free devices but their use is not recommended as it can still take your attention off the road. Texting is equally risky. You are much safer with your eyes and hands on the steering wheel than on the cell phone, typing away! In most states, use of cell phones while driving is not permitted.
- Do not eat and drink while driving. What many people don't realize is that it's not just one activity (eating) that they are doing, but a host of other activities including unwrapping boxes, leaning over to eat, spilling, searching for tissues, cleaning and wiping the spilled food, etc. Balancing a can of soda in one hand and a pack of fries in the other while trying to maneuver the steering wheel can diminish your concentration, which is dangerous to other cars around you too.
- If you are traveling with children, make sure you use child restraints or car seats. Keep the children occupied, especially if you are the only adult with them. Do not have lengthy conversations and arguments with other co-passengers. A carload of loud, talking people can prove to be a huge distraction. If you have pets in the car, place them in portable pet carriers so their movements are restricted and they do not disturb you and cause minimum distraction. Never place pets on your lap when you are in the driver's seat.
- While driving, do not attempt to consult a map, tune the radio, make new entries in your GPS, adjust climate control, etc. These activities seem harmless but they can make you lose your concentration. Ask your co-passengers to do these things, or if you are alone, do so when you stop at the traffic light or pull over at a safe location and adjust whatever is required.
- Cars these days come fitted with portable DVDs, which can certainly be a boon if you have unruly children traveling with you. Play their favorite movie and you can have a hassle-free trip. But make sure the screen is well out of the driver's sight! Watching a movie while driving is one of the most dangerous things to do.
- If you are the parent of a teen, explain to him/her the rules of safe driving. Teens lack driving experience and the thrill of taking to the road and driving a car independently can make them overconfident. Talk to them about the perils of distractions while driving so that they learn good driving habits and turn out to be responsible drivers.
To sum it all up, stay focused and pay attention while driving. Do not let any sort of distractions get in your way, because they can inhibit your driving performance and reduce your awareness of the road and other cars around you. Leave early and plan your travel such that you arrive at your destination safely and on time. You are not just accountable for your own safety, but the safety of your co-passengers is also in your hands. Drive responsibly.