Operating a motor vehicle requires visual, manual and cognitive concentration. Visual attention enables the driver to see the roadway, identify problems and react appropriately. Motorists need manual focus to operate the steering wheel, gas, brakes, signals, etc. Cognitive awareness allows the individual to predict, decide and execute the appropriate driving response to avoid an accident. Drivers rely on all three abilities to reach the destination safely.
Minimizing behind the wheel distractions is a conscious and deliberate decision Consider the following ideas.
- Cell phones. Many vehicles are equipped with blue tooth technology. Hands free, however, does not mean distraction free. Using a cell phone behind the wheel is risky whether talking, texting, checking social media, or reading and responding to email messages. Turn off or silence the cell phone when behind the wheel. Enable phone features to let the sender know you are driving. Forward incoming calls directly to voice mail. Pull off the road if you need to respond to a cell phone call or text Take periodic breaks on long trips to review and respond to messages. Use your cell phone only for emergency situations.
- Driver mindset. Commit to being fully focused and rested each time you get behind the wheel. Look ahead and concentrate on the task at hand. Daydreaming and drowsiness make distracted driving more likely.
- Passengers. Conversing with or attending to others in the vehicle can be distracting. Enlist a passenger's help in scanning the roadway and adjusting controls. Children should be buckled securely in car seats. Stop the vehicle to tend to an unhappy little one rather than reaching into the back seat. Crate your pet for transportation.
- Distractions inside the car. Activities like adjusting music and temperature controls, tweaking mirrors and seat positions, eating, grooming, reaching for objects, programming or watching a GPS mapping device affect the driver's visual, manual and cognitive abilities. Set controls, fine-tune the playlist and secure loose gear before putting the car in gear.
- Vehicle options. New cars are often equipped with in-vehicle infotainment systems. Learn how to use this technology effectively so eyes can remain on the road ahead rather than the infotainment screen. Driver assist technologies like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection are also popular. Understand how these features work and how they support - not replace - the driver.
- Distractions outside the car. Road construction, scenery, billboards, accident sites and more cause drivers to lose concentration. Be intentional about keeping eyes on the roadway.