Did you know that the first automobile drivers and passengers often experienced feelings of sensory overload simply because they were placing their bodies inside a giant machine and being moved at speeds unlike anything they had ever experience? This seems silly to us now. We feel that the act of operating a vehicle has become second nature. The risk, thrill, and adventure of the automobile have been replaced with all types of gadgets and functions that are supposedly designed to make the act of driving a car easier.
While many of these things are quite useful inventions, they often beckon our attention away from the task at hand. Drivers must take measures to prevent their attention from being draw from the road to what is happening inside their vehicle. Here is a list of some of the most distracting things that are inside our vehicle and how we can keep them from making our commutes more dangerous:
Most drivers, even those who are old enough to remember the days before car phones, cannot fathom travelling from one destination to another without the “safety” of having a cell phone available. The fact is, cell phones are much more likely to cause an automobile accident than they are to save a life after one. It is best to turn off your cell phone or turn it on silent while operating your vehicle. It is also advisable to ask your passengers to refrain from talking on the phone while you are driving if their conversations distract your attention from the road. We all know that texting and driving is now one of the leading causes of accidents and many states are now adopting laws preventing it. Never send a text message, review email, play a game, or surf the internet from your phone while operating an automobile.
Many vehicles now come with GPS or navigational devices built right into the dashboard. Directionally challenged drivers swear by these instruments and many refuse to drive anywhere without them. While GPS devices are very helpful, they can be just as distracting as cell phones. If your device is removable, always position it in the proper location on your windshield and input your destination before you being to drive the vehicle. If it malfunctions while you are driving, pull over and stop your car before you attempt to fix it. It is safest to designate a passenger to use the GPS device so that your eyes and attention are not drawn from the road.
Let’s think about all the people who ride along with us as we operate our vehicles: a passel of gossipy co-workers on our morning commute, half of our son’s soccer team after a devastating and emotional loss, our back-seat driving in-laws, four giddy friends on the way to the beach, and the list goes on and on. Passengers can be extremely distracting. Remember, you are not only in control of the vehicle, you are in control of the safety of those inside it. Don’t worry about being cool. If you need to ask your passengers to talk more quietly or exclude you from their conversations so that you can focus on driving, do it. If you know that driving with passengers distracts you, limit the number of people who ride in your car or allow someone else to drive.
Many family vehicles are now equipped with DVD systems that allow passengers riding in the back seat to watch movies while the vehicle is in motion. While many of these systems have headphones for the viewers to wear, the audio is often played through the vehicle’s speakers. While these systems may keep your kids or passengers content on long drives, they also subject the driver to spontaneous burst of laughter, plot synopsis, and the task of controlling movie features and volume while the vehicle is in operation. It is best to make your passengers wear headphones if your vehicle has them or at least keep the movie’s volume low.
There’s nothing quite like rolling down the windows and heading down the highways while listening to your favorite songs on your car’s radio. However, if you are using your drink as a microphone, squinting your eyes for the high notes, and your speakers are precariously close to bursting, it is likely that your radio has become a distraction. Listen at reasonable volume levels, keep your eyes on the road when you change channels, and stop the vehicle before you search for a new CD or program the stations.
It is universally recognized as being horrible for your health. Did you know that smoking can adversely affect your driving also? Most smokers drive with only one hand on the wheel while they are smoking. Many also fumble through their belongings for their lighter or cigarette package while attempting to drive their car. The first way to prevent this distraction is to stop smoking. If you do smoke, make sure to light up before you begin to operate your vehicle and do your best to keep both hands on the wheel.
The advent of the drive-thru restaurant was an American phenomena and almost all of us visit these fast-food joints a couple of times each week. Just because you can order food from your car doesn’t mean that you should eat it inside your car. Keep the burgers in the bag until you get to your destination.
Ladies, waking up five minutes earlier will prevent the need for you to apply your make-up and fix your hair while driving on the expressway. Merging while applying your lipstick is the epitome of distracted driving.
Many of these distractions are things that we do almost ever single time we get into our vehicles. Remember that operating an automobile is a huge responsibility. You are taking your own life, the lives of your passengers, and the lives of those on the road with you into your own hands. Take the task of operating a vehicle seriously and do your best to leave the distractions behind.