Driving distractions contribute to one out of every four accidents (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration). In California, cell phone use, taking care of children and eating are the leading factors of distracted driving accidents in California. Don’t become a statistic. Recognize distractions and take these steps to reduce distractions and get you focused on what is most important when you are behind the wheel: driving.
Cell Phone Use: Talking or Texting
Have you ever become so entrenched in a phone conversation, you forgot where you were or what you were doing? You increase your risk of having an accident by 400% each time you use your cell phone while driving.
Driving safely is more important than the phone conversation, so pull over to the side of the road to make or take a phone call. If you’re on a freeway, take the next exit and find a safe and secure spot to pull over. The new California law, which took effect on July 1, 2008 requires the use of a handsfree device while driving and talking on a cell phone. Those under age 18 cannot drive while talking on a cell phone, even with a handsfree device. While handsfree devices help you focus more on the road, it still can be distraction. The actual reduction in distractions by using a handsfree device versus holding a cell phone is debatable. The best option is to never use a cell phone while driving.
Eating and Driving
So, you’re in a rush, so what’s the problem with eating while driving, right? A burger in one hand, and the other on the wheel while zipping down 680. The reality is that eating while driving can be extremely distracting, especially when you are searching for that French fry that got stuck in the emergency brake or spilled ketchup on your shirt. Instead, make enough time to eat and enjoy your meal. If you like to use the drive thru and prefer eating in the comfort of your car, park your vehicle, listen to music and savor your meal! (Plus, your car will thank you for not making a mess.)
It is easy to be distracted when talking to other passengers in the vehicle, especially children. See that they are buckled up properly, and give them tools to keep themselves occupied (games, books, have them look out the window). Avoid arguments with other passengers. Pets should also be restrained and not left roaming around.
Even if your ventilation or music controls are within reach, fidgeting with car controls can be distracting. If a car in front of you suddenly stops, would you have enough time to react? Probably not, if you are searching for a radio station or specific song on your playlist. These controls should be set before your car’s wheels are in motion.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
GPS systems are great tools to guide you where you need to go. They can also distract you. The GPS system is a navigation tool but won’t navigate for you. Keep your eye on the road first. If you are in the market for a GPS system, choose a system that reads road names to you- that will help you navigate without looking at the map. Keep in mind that in California, you cannot mount your GPS unit on the windshield- it can only be mounted on the dashboard.
Billboards and auto accidents are few of the common things that can distract you while driving. While you can’t choose for the distractions to disappear, you can choose not to look.
Applying makeup, shaving, reading a newspaper, smoking, clipping nails, or reading a book are other common distractions. Avoid these distractions on the road- and are best done at home before you leave.
Sources: California Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol