On an average day, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that over 700 people are injured and at least nine Americans die in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. In response, they have named April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The NSC created this initiative to emphasize the importance of paying attention to the road and being a responsible, safe driver.
The Top Driving Distractions
Drivers face a wide variety of distractions behind the wheel today. Incoming text messages and emails, touchscreen navigation systems, voice commands and other in-vehicle technologies can easily take your attention away from the most important task at hand: safely driving the vehicle. Here’s a list of some of the most common driving distractions, as well as what you can do to avoid them this Distracted Driving Awareness Month and beyond.
Talking, listening, reading that tiny screen, answering text messages – cell phones are a HUGE distraction behind the wheel. Put your cell phone away when you’re driving so it’s out of sight, or simply switch it off for the duration of your trip so you aren’t tempted to reach for it. If you absolutely need to use your cell phone in the car, wait until you can pull off the road to do so.
Reaching for objects.
Every time you reach for something in your car, whether it’s for your lip balm, your cell phone charger or to hit a button on your navigation system, your eyes are not on the road. In that split second, an obstruction could appear in the road, whether it’s a ladder falling off the truck you’re following or an animal darting out of the woods or the vehicle in front of you coming to a sudden stop. Anything you need can wait until you’re at a stoplight or your final destination.
Humans are curious creatures by nature, so when something out of the ordinary appears, like an accident or a new billboard advertising your favorite taco place, it’s not uncommon to crane your neck to catch a glimpse as you’re passing it by. While it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, make sure your main focus is on the road.
Friends in the car can be great for company, but they can also be distracting. Enforce the rule in your car that you cannot be distracted while you’re driving. The fun can wait until you arrive at your destination, and it’s much more important that you keep everyone in the vehicle safe until you get there.
The lull of the road and some quiet time alone creates an easy opportunity to get lost in your thoughts and lose focus on your surroundings. Stay aware of when your mind starts to wander and quickly bring it back to the road.
Avoiding Distracted Drivers
Even if you do everything correctly as a driver to avoid distractions, you may still be surrounded by other distracted drivers on the road. This is why it is imperative to also practice defensive driving.
What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving involves a set of skills that allow drivers to anticipate and avoid accidents due to dangerous or impaired drivers, inclement weather and other hazards. Drivers can help reduce risks by understanding how to size up road hazards and make quick decisions and maneuvers that may save lives.
Defensive Driving Tip #1: Be respectful of other drivers
It’s not uncommon to be running late to school, work or an appointment, which leads to rushing when you hit the road. It’s important to respect other drivers, the right-of-way and spacing, no matter the situation. This means no tailgating, honking or swerving in and out of lanes. These are dangerous behaviors that could also easily lead to a road rage incident.
Defensive Driving Tip #2: Anticipate the unexpected
A critical component of defensive driving is to remember that while you may be a safe driver, others sharing the road may not be. Always be prepared to react to other drivers suddenly switching lanes, look both ways before moving forward at a green light, be aware of your blind spots, etc.
Defensive Driving Tip #3: Follow the rules of the road
This seems like a fundamental safe driving tip that everyone knows, but it’s easy to get distracted by your surroundings and forget the basic rules of the road. Follow posted speed limit signs. Use your blinker when making a turn. Yield to oncoming traffic. These rules can help you avoid a crash that could cost you your life.
Defensive Driving Tip #5: Know your vehicle
Be sure you are well familiar and comfortable with all the functions of your vehicle. You need to have a thorough understanding of how the safety features work, how to use the windshield wipers, check the tire pressure, adjust the mirrors, and so on. You should also practice in different weather conditions so you will know how the car handles in rain, snow and fog.
Driver Training from DriveTeam
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