Whether you are new to driving or an experienced driver, there are many tempting distractions on the road that are calling for your attention. Unfortunately, driving is a task that requires our undivided attention, regardless of how long you have been driving. Between your busy work appointments and hectic family schedule, distracted driving can lead to serious accidents. Yes, it’s tempting to leave work 30 minutes early and take that conference call on your cell, but multi-tasking while driving should be minimized as much as possible. Here are some ways to avoid distracted driving:
You’re stuck in traffic and your stomach is growling because you skipped breakfast. That donut in your car sure looks tempting.
Solution: The first step to eliminating distracted driving is to recognize the risks. Sure you are hungry, but driving in traffic, especially rush hour traffic, where many people are on edge, requires your full attention and both hands on the wheel. That donut may look tempting, but think about how good it would taste when you can actually sit down at your desk and enjoy it, without the stop-and-go traffic. Drinking coffee while driving is even more dangerous. Think about how a coffee stain would look on your clothes and hold off on getting your daily caffeine fix until you get into the office.
They are playing your least favorite song on the radio again! Time to switch stations.
Solution:Obviously in-car entertainment is important and listening to a song you dislike may put you in a bad mood, but that split-second you take your eyes off the road is just enough time for a serious accident to happen. If you are not lucky enough to have steering wheel radio controls, create a driving playlist and burn it on a CD or use an iPod playlist, if your car can sync with your iPod. If you must listen to the radio, program your favorite stations into the presets and familiarize yourself with the dashboard so you aren’t fumbling around for the right station and buttons to press. Also, make sure your music is at a reasonable level. While everyone enjoys blasting their music and singing/dancing to their favorite songs, you won’t be able to hear other motorists and emergency vehicle sirens if your music is too loud.
Your phone is ringing and it’s someone calling about something important.
Solution:Even if you’ve taken the same route a thousand times and you are extremely familiar with the road, using your cell phone while driving not only takes your hands off the steering wheel but also distracts your mind from focusing on the hazards of the road. In a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, phone conversations decrease reaction time, travel speeds and increase lane deviations and steering wheel movements, all of which can lead to a serious accident. If you must take the call, use a hands free headset or, when safe to do so, pull over to the side of the road, especially if you are discussing something important.
Your kids are screaming in the back of the car and you are running late for a doctor’s appointment.
Solution:Distracted driving, especially under stressful conditions, is not only dangerous for you but also other drivers on the road. Angry driving can hinder your good judgment and lead to a dangerous accident. Driving is probably not the best time to discipline your kids, so instead of turning around and yelling at them while you’re on the road, remind your children to behave before they get into the car. Sometimes providing a small reward for good behavior may also help. If they are too distracting, pull over to the side of the road to handle matters so you can keep you and your children safe.
You’re driving to a birthday party and you are completely lost. Your GPS is malfunctioning and your map is too small to read clearly.
Solution: Getting lost on the road is both frustrating and stressful, especially if you are under a time crunch. While GPS is helpful, it is not always accurate and trying to read a map with one hand on the wheel is extremely dangerous. Instead of putting yourself in a risky situation, pull over to the side of the road and examine your map. Ask for directions at a gas station if you are really lost. To avoid getting lost, always print out turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps or MapQuest and examine your route before you leave, especially if you are driving long distances. Remember GPS is great, but not all knowing.