How to Avoid Distracted Driving
The thing most people say after having an accident is that they only took their eyes away from the road for a second.
That’s the thing -- too many people have years of safe driving and become a little too comfortable and take too many liberties with safe driving habits. The simple act of regularly checking your mirrors often gets neglected over time, as does making sure you have both hands on the wheel and ready to keep the vehicle in control.
Truth be told, comfortable and confident drivers do actually make better drivers. It means they are also more able, usually, to make quick decisions and have really good defensive driving skills. The problem is when motorists become too comfortable and confident behind the wheel for their own good -- and the good of everyone else sharing the road.
So, it seems the first bit of advice about avoiding distracted driving should simply be to not allow yourself to be distracted. It’s not like getting tired while driving, which can be beyond your control. To be realistic though, it’s about finding some ways to limit what you allow to grab your attention and make you a potential hazard on the roads.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving
Just Say No to the Cell
Not only is texting or talking on a cell phone a bad idea, it is actually illegal in many states. Some areas have only banned texting, but that doesn’t mean that talking on the phone is that much safer. Reports have indicated that, contrary to popular belief, giving attention to a caller on the other end of the phone is much more distracting than having a conversation with someone who may be riding in the car with you. Anything that takes your attention from the road is a distraction. So, obviously, the more attention the activity requires, the more distracted you are.
That doesn’t mean you will able to avoid this recent advancement in technology, which has led to an entire society of people who pay more attention to the gadget in their hands than anything in front of them. If you are really determined to stop letting your phone cause you to have questionable driving habits, turn it off. Before getting in the car, simply shut it down. That way, you still have it should an emergency arise, but you are not as tempted to make a call, take a call or, even worse, start typing a text message.
If the need does arise to do any of these things, or use the phone to map out directions or some similar useful function, at least pull over to the side of the road prior to using the phone. Even typing an address into your phone for GPS tracking can be the cause of a wreck. Pull off to a safe spot on the side of the road or to a gas station or rest area and take care of what you need to. Keep in mind, this applies to all electronic devices. Searching for a song on your iPhone isn’t any safer than using your phone as a method of distraction.
Save the Grooming for the Bathroom
While women are guilty of doing things such as applying makeup and using the rear view mirror as a vanity mirror, men, too, have been known to shave, comb their hair or otherwise groom in the car. Aside from being a distraction, it often means one or, even more frighteningly, both hands are no longer on the steering wheel. Plus, it means using the mirrors for things other than the intended purpose. Either plan your time better in the morning so you can spend time at home getting ready, or allow yourself a few moments in the employee facilities to finish up your morning grooming.
Unfortunately, this also includes putting in contacts, cleaning your glasses or even, for vehicular grooming, attempting to clean either part of the car interior or windshield, while driving. While these things may actually serve an important and useful function, they are also tasks that should be performed while the car is stopped. The bottom line is that multi-tasking while driving should not be an option.
Believe it or not, emotional driving can be a distraction, too. This type of unsafe driving means your mind is not on the road ahead, even if your eyes are. Emotional driving can be being upset, sad or mad about something personal before getting behind the wheel, or it may also mean getting caught up in a case of road rage. Whatever the type of emotional distraction, it can be a truly problematic issue.
It would be great to say no one should ever get behind the wheel of a car until they have completely gained control of their emotions. This, unfortunately, would not be entirely realistic. The trick is to, first, calm down as much as possible. Take some deep breaths and really remind yourself that, for the time being, the focus has to be the driving, not the thing upsetting you so much. Secondly, once you have started driving, keep things in check. If you feel your emotions flaring up again or just can’t seem to stop being distracted, you may need to pull over until you regain some more composure.
If you tend to suffer from road rage, this is something you certainly need to try to keep in check. This is not only dangerous and distracted behavior, it can be destructive, as well. This type of behavior usually causes those who suffer from it to actually try to instigate a fight or cause a wreck. If you know you suffer from road rage you should really try some self-help methods to help cure this, or even seek help such as anger management courses or therapy.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to acting as responsible motorist who has the opportunity to have the freedom to be behind the wheel, the idea is to treat it as importantly on day one as you do year one as you do year 100. Also, learn good defensive driving skills so you can protect yourself from other drivers who may be distracted.
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