Avoid Distracted Driving

There are three broad categories of distractions that affect driving concentration. A visual distraction causes the motorist to take his/her eyes off the road. A manual distraction results in the driver taking his/her hands off the steering wheel. A cognitive distraction takes the driver's thoughts off the task at hand. Driving distractions often involve all three areas.

Cell phones are an obvious driving distraction, but motorists contend with countless others every time they get behind the steering wheel. Some distractions come from within the vehicle. These are activities like fine tuning temperature and audio controls, reading panel displays or navigational devices, snacking, talking to passengers, tending to children or pets, adjusting electronic devices, grooming and countless more. Other distractions are external disruptions that come from road signs, billboard displays, construction work, scenery and fellow travelers. Daydreaming and drowsiness also cause drivers to lose focus.

It is impossible to eliminate driving distractions altogether There are, however, things motorists can do to reduce the risk. Consider the following ideas.

  • Make a conscious and deliberate decision to focus only on driving when you get behind the steering wheel.
  • Address potential driving distractions before you put the car in gear. Adjust seat position, climate control, audio system, mirror, etc. to your liking. Program the GPS. Organize money for tolls, food, drinks, music or other items that might be accessed during the trip. Check for loose gear that might roll inside the vehicle. Properly stow these items.
  • Hands free does not mean distraction free. Place your cell phone on silent, turn it off, or consider installing an app that holds calls and texts while in route. Texting while driving is especially dangerous. Reading or sending a text behind the wheel takes the driver's eyes off the roadway for five seconds, often longer. A crash is more likely if you cannot respond to sudden braking ahead, road debris, etc. Find a safe location to pull off the road if you need to use your cell phone.
  • Everyone inside the car should be properly buckled Find a place to stop when children need attention.
  • Build time into long trips to stop for food and use the cell phone. Take periodic breaks to refresh, refocus and recommit to distraction-free driving.

Avoid using the cell phone, take proactive steps to minimize driving distractions whenever possible and remain fully focused on every trip.